Directly observed evidence indicates that the early universe expanded by 100 trillion trillion times in a fraction of a second, scientists announced today.
Researchers say they have been able to discern gravitational waves—ripples in space-time first theorized by Albert Einstein in his theory of general relativity—that provide the first direct telltale sign of the exponential inflation of the universe right after it was born.
“This is the first direct image of gravitational waves across the primordial sky,” said study co-leader Chao-Lin Kuo, a Stanford University physicist who studies the beginning of the universe.
Such theories about rapid inflation have argued that expansion after the Big Bang shot the outer limits of the early universe from a miniscule point outward to a distance beyond the sensing abilities of our best telescopes in less than the blink of an eye.
But the gravitational waves that would support the idea of inflation had never before been observed.