Scientists have discovered gravitational waves that reaffirm the theory of cosmic inflation, which suggests that the universe rapidly expanded within the first fraction of a second of the Big Bang, almost 14 billion years ago.
“Detecting this signal is one of the most important goals in cosmology today,” said John Kovac at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in a statement. Kovac led the team that detected this pattern.
The theory of inflation was first proposed in 1979 by MIT physicist Alan Guth, who describes this hyper-expansion as the “bang” of the Big Bang. Observations through a Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization 2 telescope based at the South Pole detected a faint glow left from the Big Bang as well as tiny fluctuations. The detection of B-modes, or a twisting in the polarized orientation of ancient light, serves as the first direct evidence for inflation, as they can only be created by ripples caused by inflation.
“The swirly B-mode pattern is a unique signature of gravitational waves because of their handedness. This is the first direct image of gravitational waves across the primordial sky,” said Stanford’s Chao-Lin Kuo, who designed the telescope detector.