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Update: BICEP2's Proof of Big Bang Officially Foiled by Dust

Jan 31, 2015 12:24 PM EST
Big Bang

(Photo : Pixabay)

Back in March, scientists operating the telescope BICEP2 announced that they may have found proof of the Big Bang that created the Universe, while others claimed that their findings could just as well be explained by light scattering off dust between the stars in the Milky Way. And now, new research has confirmed that dust has foiled their "breakthrough" discovery.

Using the South Pole-based radio telescope called BICEP2, researchers observed primordial gravitational waves, or a twisting pattern in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) - the Big Bang's afterglow.

This was hailed as the first true evidence of the Big Bang, also known as cosmic inflation - the trillionths of seconds after the Universe expanded rapidly.

However, it seems that people's suspicions of this discovery has been confirmed. The new paper, which has been submitted to the peer-reviewed journal Physical Review Letters, says that dust actually caused these gravitational waves.

"Nearby spinning grains can produce an identical polarization pattern, and this effect must also be removed to get an unambiguous view of the primordial background signal," BBC News wrote.

The BICEP2 team was well aware of this potential complication, however at the time it did not have access to dust data being compiled by the Planck space telescope, which had mapped the microwave sky at more frequencies than BICEP2.

So now, since the Planck team - operating a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite - started working with BICEP2 scientists, they can confirm that the previously discovered gravitational waves (also called B-nodes) don't prove the Big Bang.

"This joint work has shown that the detection of primordial B-modes is no longer robust once the emission from galactic dust is removed," Jean-Loup Puget, principal investigator of the Planck team, said in an ESA statement.

"So, unfortunately, we have not been able to confirm that the signal is an imprint of cosmic inflation."

However, that's not to say that primordial gravitational waves from the Big Bang don't exist. Scientists using a variety of technologies and telescopes are still in search of these waves in a race to be the first to find evidence of the beginnings of the Universe.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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