(UNDATED) - Scientists who thought the universe expanded rapidly right after the Big Bang now have evidence to support their theory.
A telescope at the South Pole called BICEP 2 is at the center of the research - BICEP stands for Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization. It allowed researchers to look at the polarization of light left over from when the universe exploded into existence 13.8 billion years ago. Scientists have long thought that when the universe came into being from a piece smaller than an atom, it began expanding in all directions rapidly and immediately. "We're talking about a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, and we've seen the remains of that in what's called the cosmic microwave background," said Brian Murphy, director of the Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium at Butler University.
Researches say the gravity waves were picked by microwave telescopes examining deep space, areas where the aftershock of the explosion that created the universe can be detected. It's the area that first showed up when the universe began to cool off about 400,000 years after the Big Bang. "We can see back to that curtain basically, and we're examining what's on that curtain, what ripples are occurring just after the birth of the universe to see what happened in that first second," Murphy said.
The BICEP 2 study is the first to image the gravitational waves directly, and if it holds up to more scientific testing, confirms Albert Einstein's prediction of such waves through his general theory of relativity 98 years ago. "It's one of these crowning achievements where a theory - cosmic inflation or Big Bang inflation - these observations of gravitational waves from that actually proved that it occurred," Murphy said.
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