We live in exciting times in our understanding of the Universe.  But if this discovery is confirmed, it will certainly be the biggest story in Cosmology this year!

A team from the Harvard-Smithsonian Institute say they have discovered the smoking gun of gravitational waves in the Cosmic microwave Background: proof that the universe expanded to trillions of times its own size in the tinyist fraction of a second after it was created.

The work, if it stands up, could be in line for a Nobel prize.

Here are two video reports: the first from YouTube Channel "VideoFromSpace":


And this from YouTube Channel "This is Genius":

Image Credit: BICEP2 Project


Since the announcement, the scientific community have been scrutinising the Harvard-Smithsonian data, and there is a growing feeling that the results could possibly be attributable to polarisation effects of dust in our own galaxy.  New data collected by the Planck telescope, which will give us a clearer picture, could be available by the end of the year.  Read more here.

Two issues had to be subtracted from the results received by the BICEP2 instrument at the South Pole before the gravitational energy could be concluded to be responsible.  One was the gravitational lensing effect of large galaxies, and the other was the effects of spinning particles of dust in the foreground of our own galaxy which can produce a very similar polarisation effect.  The BICEP team used their best information to do this, but since then the Planck satellite, which can map the microwave sky at many more frequencies, has provided more data.  After re-calculating with this new data, the gravitational wave data cannot be separated from the 'noise' at statistically significant levels, and therefore the finding has been withdrawn.  However, the improved data give a new platform for the BICEP team to do more research, so... watch this space.