Almost 14 billion years ago, the Universe we inhabit burst into existence in an extraordinary event that initiated the Big Bang. In the first fleeting fraction of a second, the Universe expanded exponentially, stretching far beyond the view of our best telescopes. All this, of course, was just theory.
Image Credit: NASA
Researchers from the BICEP2 collaboration yesterday announced the first direct evidence for this cosmic inflation. Their data also represent the first images of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time. These waves have been described as the “first tremors of the Big Bang.” Finally, the data confirm a deep connection between quantum mechanics and general relativity.
“Detecting this signal is one of the most important goals in cosmology today. A lot of work by a lot of people has led up to this point,” said John Kovac (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), leader of the BICEP2 collaboration.
These groundbreaking results came from observations by the BICEP2 telescope of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) — a faint glow left over from the Big Bang. Tiny fluctuations in this afterglow provide clues to conditions in the early Universe. For example, small differences in temperature across the sky show where parts of ...