Astronomers today announced a discovery they hope could prove the Big Bang theory of how the universe was created.
ITV News Science Editor Lawrence McGinty reports:
The Harvard University team used a specially designed telescope facility in the South Pole to search for microwaves generated when the universe exploded into existence around 14 billion years ago.
The project, named BICEP2, involved trying to find a signal of "inflation", the process by which the universe expanded extremely rapidly in the fraction of a second which followed the Big Bang.
– Jamie Bock, project leader on BICEP2
The implications for this detection stagger the mind. We are measuring a signal that comes from the dawn of time.
The tiny ripples the team found, known as gravitational waves, were predicted by Albert Einstein over a century ago, but this is the first time their existence has been verified.
Professor John Kovac, who headed up the research, said the discovery was "one of the most important goals in cosmology today".
If the research is independently confirmed the team's work could be in line for a Nobel Prize.