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Dust erases evidence for gravity wave detection

Spacetime ripples may exist, but search must continue, new analysis concludes

By
4:10pm, January 30, 2015
Patch of sky

DUST IN DEPTH  The Planck satellite analyzed the same patch of sky, shown here within the white dots, that the BICEP2 telescope measured in a search for primordial gravitational waves. Yellow and red patches contain the most galactic dust.

An elusive signal from the dawn of the cosmos is officially still elusive.

Galactic dust accounts for much of the signal that researchers originally interpreted as ripples in spacetime imprinted on the universe’s first light, a new analysis confirms. The study, conducted by the BICEP2 team that claimed the discovery and scientists with the Planck space telescope, nullifies a result that would have provided the first direct evidence of cosmological inflation, a brief moment after the Big Bang when the universe rapidly ballooned in size.

The new analysis, announced by the European Space Agency on January 30, does not mean that the theory of inflation is wrong or that these primordial ripples, called gravitational waves, don’t exist. In fact, it’s possible that the signature of inflation is subtly embedded in BICEP2’s data. But after

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