Scientists say they have discovered new evidence to support the Big Bang Theory of the origins of the universe.
They believe they have detected the gravitational waves which rippled through space just fractions of a second after the universe came into being.
The discovery by an American team has been hailed as a triumph.
Marc Kamionkowski, a theoretical physicist at Johns Hopkins University explained its significance: “This detection is cosmology’s missing link, it is something we thought should be there but we weren’t really sure and it’s been eagerly sought now for close to two decades. This is not something that is just a home run, but a grand slam, it’s the smoking gun for inflation.”
Inflation or the rapid expansion of space had long been suspected but until the team working on the project known as BICEP2 released its findings, there had been no evidence.
Mordecai-Mark Mac Low, curator at the American Museum of Natural History, said: “What has been announced today is direct observational evidence in support of the theory that the universe grew from the size of an atom. That the observable universe grew from the size of an atom to the size of a basketball in an enormously small fraction of a second.”
And space has continued to expand for nearly 14 billion years since.
Predicted by Albert Einstein more than a century ago, the discovery of the gravitational waves produced by inflation is a major contribution to our understanding of how everything from galaxies to stars and planets came to exist.