News FocusAstronomy

…While Planck Dusts the Skies For the Fingerprints of Inflation

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Science  01 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5927, pp. 584-586
DOI: 10.1126/science.324_584b

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The newborn universe supposedly expanded faster than the speed of light. That bizarre, hypothetical stretching should have set off ripples in space and time called gravitational waves, which 13.7 billion years later should have left traces in the afterglow of the big bang, the cosmic microwave background. The 400 researchers working with the European Space Agency's Planck satellite hope to spot those traces--subtle patterns in the polarization of the microwaves called "B modes"--before anyone else does. Still, Planck, which will be launched together with Herschel, a telescope with the biggest mirror yet flown in space (see related story), may not be the sure-fire winner that its predecessors COBE and WMAP were, some researchers say.