Sunday, May 4, 2014

BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole

The BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole illuminated during a winter darkness, which lasts for nearly six months straight.

Credit: Robert Schwarz, University of Minnesota

The astrophysics community is abuzz about what may be the first definitive evidence that the very early universe underwent an almost unimaginably fast expansion (The Big Bang), doubling its size sixty times in a sliver of a second.

This sudden growth spurt was first theorized more than three decades ago, yet only last month did data from the U.S. National Science Foundation-funded Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization (BICEP2) telescope reveal what appears to be "smoking gun" proof.

What is this result and what does it mean for our understanding of the universe?

Earlier this month, The Kavli Foundation hosted a Google Hangout so that four preeminent astrophysicists could discuss this question.

One of many conversations about astrophysics the foundation has hosted and published on its website

A LC-130 aircraft passes the NSF South Pole station during take off. 

Telescopes visible in the background include (left to right) the South Pole Telescope (SPT), the BICEP2 telescope, and the Keck Array telescope.

Credit: Steffen Richter, Harvard University

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