Nice discussion. Just to add my 2 cents here. Indeed, we are faced with participial phrases. Let's tear down A.
: Astronomers have theorized
Restrictive clause of the ind. clause
: that the Big Bang governs the behavior of interstellar dust
: particles that comprise the atoms and molecules created in the progenitive explosion and persisting in even the emptiest regions of space
Actually, what we are really interested in is the appositive phrase construction. Remember, an appositive has NO VERB. How is the appositive phrase constructed? With 2 participial phrases which modify noun "atoms and molecules". So we have:
: that comprise the atoms and molecules
Participial phrase 1
in the progenitive explosion
Participial phrase 2
in even the emptiest regions of space
The portion in red is what that participial phrases are modifying. But how do we know whether to pick the past or present participle?
The past participle
represents a past condition, the passive voice or also a condition done onto the subject.
The present participle
represents a present condition, the active voice or also a condition performed by the subject.
1- The ritual, perpetuated by the clan members --> Here, the ritual is passive because it is a noun that is performed by some other subjects(clan members) and it also denotes something which happened in the past.
2- The ritual, perpetuating the tradition of the ancestors--> Here, the ritual is active because it is a noun because it is itself performing the action of continuing the tradition of the ancestors and the perpetuation is still ongoing
(notice the redundancy here
In the original question, if we apply the following concept, we can see that for the first participial phrase, the action of "creating" happened in the past because the "atoms and molecules" themselves are not creating anything; they are being created, so passive voice is proper. The second participial phrase starting with "persisting" means that the "atoms and molecules" are still persisiting in the present(a present condition), they are performing the action of "persisting" so the use of present participle is better. We cannot say that the atoms "persisted" because that would imply that they no longer do and there is nothing to warrant that.
B makes the second participial phrase become a clause with the inclusion of a conjugated verb(present tense and wrongly conjugated anyways) and fails in terms of parallellism. C is wrong because of the explanation above. D unnecessarily introduces a redundant pronoun but does not have the participial form to maintain parallellism anyways. E again is turning participial form into present progressive form and makes the second part a clause, not a phrase so it is wrong.