Researchers Find “Groundbreaking” Proof of Cosmic Inflation

A view of the northern horizon taken from the McDonald Observatory. The night sky is ideal for studying dark energy, the still unknown energy behind the expansion of the universe. (Credit: Bill Wren/McDonald Observatory)

A view of the northern horizon taken from the McDonald Observatory.
The night sky is ideal for studying dark energy, the still unknown energy behind the expansion of the universe. (Credit: Bill Wren/McDonald Observatory)

What’s being held as one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs in decades has created a flurry of media attention this week.

Dr. Karl Gebhardt

Dr. Karl Gebhardt

Researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics say they’ve discovered our first direct proof of cosmic inflation – the theory that the universe expanded much, much faster than the speed of light in the moments after the Big Bang.

For some insight into how big of a deal this news really is, we talked to Dr. Karl Gebhardt at the University of Texas in Austin. He’s an astrophysics professor and also the Project Scientist for the upcoming Dark Energy Experiment McDonald Observatory’s Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HETDEX.)

Keep in mind when we talk about the “moments” after the Big Bang, we mean fractions of a second.

This theory of the early universe has been around for over three decades, but experts say if this latest discovery holds up, it could one of the most significant breakthroughs in how we understand the birth of our world.

The New York Times recently said this discovery could “open up vast realms of time and space and energy to science and speculation.” Some scientists are even saying the researchers’ findings could open up the realm of possibilities for “multiverses.”

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