It is being reported new scientific studies have shown that observations heralded as confirmation of evidence once backing the Big Bang inflation theory has come back inconclusive. Research into the universe’s short-term growth spurt did not decisively show what investigators thought it would. The oldest light that exists in the universe and is seen at the present time as a Cosmic Microwave Background, saturates the cosmos. In March, one research team announced that they had found whirling polarization arrangements known as B-modes inside the CMB, and this was believed to be leftover radiation from the birth of the universe. Such configurations should exist in the CMB if the universe experienced a moment of exponential increase called inflation which would have lasted around a nano-nano-nanosecond.
This proclamation set off a level of exhilaration and conjecture which brought about discussion over a Nobel Prize for the theorizers who had first came up with the suggested inflation of the Big Bang, if the results turned out to be correct. However two other research teams have pooled the first team’s information with the latest data discovered and came up with a different set of info. Each of the teams have stated they cannot differentiate whether the B-modes the first team found are in the CMB or coming from emissions in dust floating throughout the galaxy.
At the frequency the first team observed, the three foremost signals to focus on were the CMB (which is polarized) from the time of the Big Bang, dust (also polarized), and the cosmic infrared background (CIB, which is unpolarized). The CIB is the total of ultraviolet light from billions of grimy, dusty galaxies, which have permeated the cosmos in the same way CMB does.
To rub out any CMB signal’s, cosmologists have to be able to recognize just how much of the signal they detected from any given part of the sky comes from each source. To do this, the first team used an all-sky map that showed polarized dust emission. However the map also showed the CIB because it combined light from dust in a whole horde of galaxies, it looked like dirt in the Milky Way except that it was not polarized. One of the second teams realized the CIB was going to be a problem and spent over a year clearing it out. They then released a new CIB-less dust map.
It was from this second map that new papers were then created. With the revised polarized map, the two new research teams stated that the first team appeared to have lowballed the volume of polarization that came from the dust of the Milky Way. Basically cosmologists are unable to determine anything about where B-modes actually come from. In the parts that the scientists used to make maps, the CMB signal did not change as the different frequencies were viewed but the dust signals did. So if cosmologists were able to view at how the signals changed as they moved between frequencies, they could successfully remove the dust from their view.
The fact that the first team’s results hinged on the two other teams respective findings raised the stakes. One thing that everyone agreed upon was that they had to be right in their results. They could not afford to be wrong about what they found so the teams plan on working on it until they feel they have it right and until that happens, the research will not be over. The new scientific studies have shown that observations heralded as confirmation for the universe’s short-term growth spurt at the time of the Big Bang did not decisively show what investigators thought they would and that turned out to be quite a shock in the science world.
By Kimberly Ruble
Sky and Telescope