Scientists have found the first direct evidence that the universe expanded incredibly quickly in the microseconds after the Big Bang.
They found these signatures of cosmic inflation as gravitational waves from the Big Bang from the cosmic microwave background radiation of our universe.
A press release from NASA says:
Astronomers are announcing today that they have acquired the first direct evidence that gravitational waves rippled through our infant universe during an explosive period of growth called inflation. This is the strongest confirmation yet of cosmic inflation theories, which say the universe expanded by 100 trillion trillion times, in less than the blink of an eye.
The major announcement came from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Here's the technical data and papers that go along with the announcement from the group at the Bicep (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) project.
"This work offers new insights into some of our most basic questions: Why do we exist? How did the universe begin?," astrophysicist Avi Loeb, who wasn't a member of the study team said in a statement about the Harvard-Smithsonian research. "These results are not only a smoking gun for inflation, they also tell us when inflation took place and how powerful the process was."
Researchers will be giving a press conference, streamed live starting at 11:55 a.m. EDT at this link and this back up link, though neither are working for us right now. From twitter, it's looking like they've started the press conference early, though we can't confirm that.
As the rumors have been saying, the discovery has to do with finding of evidence of primordial gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime that were produced in the early universe as it inflated explosively from a tiny dot. The imprint they left when the universe was born 13.82 billion years ago would give us an idea of what the universe was like when it just came into existence.
I don't really know what it all means, but I still think it's cool.