In an immense breakthrough, a team of top international researchers believe that they have finally found the point of time when the universe came into being.
About 14 billion years ago, the universe burst into existence in an event that initiated the Big Bang.
Announcing their finding in an international press call, scientists from Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics said that this first evidence for cosmic inflation came from researchers working with BICEP2 collaboration. Their data also represents the first images of ripples in space-time or gravitational waves.
The team examined their data for over three years to rule out any possible errors. "This work offers new insights into some of our most basic questions: Why do we exist? How did the universe begin? These results are not only a smoking gun for inflation, they also tell us when inflation took place and how powerful the process was." TOI quoted Avi Loeb, Harvard theorist.
The discovery came from observations made by BICEP2 telescope of the cosmic microwave background - the pale glow left over from the Big Bang.
Small fluctuations in the afterglow gave clues to surroundings in the early universe.
Cosmic microwave background is a form of light, it shows all properties of light along with polarization. Their detection assures an integral connection between Einstein's theory of general relativity and the stranger conceptual realm of quantum mechanics.
"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, leader of the BICEP2 collaboration at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
"Our team hunted for a special type of polarization called B-modes, which represents a twisting or curl pattern in the polarized orientations of the ancient light," said co-leader Jamie Bock.
The researchers travelled to the South Pole to benefit its cold, stable and dry air.
"The South Pole is the closest you can get to space and still be on the ground. It's one of the driest and clearest locations on Earth, perfect for observing the faint microwaves from the Big Bang." said Kovac.
"This has been like looking for a needle in a haystack, but instead we found a crowbar," said co-leader Clem Pryke of University of Minnesota.