...While Planck dusts the skies for the fingerprints of inflation
Publication date: 01 May 2009
Authors: A. Cho
Copyright: AAASThe big bang: The universe bursts into existence, an infinitely dense and hot soup of subatomic particles and radiation. In a fraction of a nanosecond, it doubles its size again and again, in a faster-than-light growth spurt known as inflation. That bizarre, hypothetical stretching evens out the universe but also sets 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 (CMB). The 400 researchers working with the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Planck satellite hope to spot those traces - subtle patterns in the polarization of the microwaves called "B modes" -before anyone else does.