Arizona State University - 20 May 2010
Primordial Gravitational Waves and CosmologyAdvancing into the next frontier in astrophysics and cosmology depends on our ability to detect the presence of a particular type of wave in space, a primordial gravitational wave. Much like ripples moving across a pond, these waves stretch the fabric of space itself as they pass by. If detected, these weak and elusive waves could provide an unprecedented view of the earliest moments of our universe. In an article appearing in the May 21 issue of Science, Arizona State University theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss and researchers from the University of Chicago and Fermi national Laboratory explore the most likely detection method of these waves, with the examination of cosmic microwave radiation (CMB) standing out as the favored method.
During the past century, astronomy has been revolutionized by the use of new methods for observing the universe, but still today the origin of dark energy and dark matter is unknown. The answer to these and other mysteries may require us to probe back to the earliest moments of the Big Bang expansion. Questions of origins, such as ‘how did the Universe begin,’ provoke fascination and are at the forefront of ASU’s Origins Project, which Krauss directs.
- Science, 21 May 2010, Vol 328, No 5981, pp 989-992, DOI: 10.1126/science.1179541
The observation of primordial gravitational waves could provide a new and unique window on the earliest moments in the history of the universe and on possible new physics at energies many orders of magnitude beyond those accessible at particle accelerators. Such waves might be detectable soon, in current or planned satellite experiments that will probe for characteristic imprints in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background, or later with direct space-based interferometers. A positive detection could provide definitive evidence for inflation in the early universe and would constrain new physics from the grand unification scale to the Planck scale.