In DepthCosmology

Misfire aside, signs of cosmic inflation could come soon

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Science  06 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6222, pp. 595-596
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6222.595

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When the biggest discovery in cosmology in years officially unraveled last Friday, nobody was surprised. Nevertheless, cosmologists remain optimistic that such a discovery may come soon. Last March, cosmologists using a specialized telescope at the South Pole called BICEP2 reported that they had detected faint pinwheel-like swirls in the afterglow of the big bang—the cosmic microwave background—that would be direct evidence of cosmic inflation, a bizarre exponential growth spurt thought to have blown up the infant universe. But in September, data from Europe's Planck spacecraft suggested the signal was an artifact of dust in our galaxy. Now, a joint analysis by the BICEP and Planck teams confirms the dust explanation. Still, a gaggle of experiments in the works will have sensitivity to see a signal half as strong as the now-discredited one. And researchers are planning for a $100 million network of telescopes, to be deployed next decade, that would be 10 times more sensitive still. Evidence for inflation may come within a few years.