Astronomers Find "Twist" in Cosmic Microwave Background

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Astronomers this week announced that they have found a "twist" in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation that blankets the universe. To be more specific, researchers have detected B-mode polarization in the CMB caused by gravitational lensing.

What this means is that astronomers have discovered just how the earliest light in the universe was deflected by galaxies and dark matter as it made its way to Earth, changing its polarization along the way. A map of sorts for the light has been re-created using a new technique. Researchers believe this discovery could help cosmologists piece together just what happened in the moments following the big bang.

The new observations were made using a combination of data from the South Pole Telescope and the European Space Agency's (ESA) Herschel space telescope. The results have been published in a paper this week in the journal Physical Review Letters.

“It’s an important checkpoint that we’re able to detect this small lensing B-mode signal and it bodes well for our ability to ultimately measure an even more elusive type of B-mode created during the inflationary Big Bang,” said Duncan Hanson, lead author of the paper and an astronomer at McGill University.

The other type of B-mode polarization Hanson refers to is caused by the rapid expansion of the universe that immediately (in fractions of a second) followed after the big bang. Current hypotheses predict that collisions between matter and energy during this inflationary period created gravitational waves that could be measured through this "promordial" B-Mode polarized light.

(Image courtesy ESA)

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