NEW YORK —
Astronomers scanned about 2 percent of the sky for three years with a telescope at the South Pole, where the air is exceptionally dry.
They were looking for a specific pattern in light waves within the faint microwave glow left over from the Big Bang. The pattern has long been considered evidence of rapid growth, known as inflation. Kovac called it “the smoking-gun signature of inflation.”
The reported detection suggests that “inflation has sent us a telegram,” Kamionkowski said.
The researchers say the light-wave pattern was caused by gravitational waves, which are ripples in space and time. If verified, the new work would be the first detection of such waves from the birth of the universe, which have been called the first tremors of the Big Bang.
Krauss cautioned that the light-wave pattern might not be a sign of inflation, although he stressed that it’s “extremely likely” that it is. The pattern is “our best hope” for a direct test of whether the rapid growth spurt happened, he said.
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