In online French documents briefly released and then removed last night and confirmed by the European Space Agency today, physicists have announced that last year’s much-publicized ‘discovery’ of gravitational waves embedded in the ‘echo’ of the Big Bang was a misstep.
Preempting the official research paper that is planned to be published next week, the ESA, who manages the Planck space telescope data, has gone on the record to say that the BICEP2 measurements of B-mode polarization in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) was caused not by the presence of primordial gravitational waves, but by obscuring dust inside our own galaxy. The CMB is the left-over ancient radiation from the Big Bang that occurred nearly 14 billion years ago.
“Despite earlier reports of a possible detection, a joint analysis of data from ESA’s Planck satellite and the ground-based BICEP2 and Keck Array experiments has found no conclusive evidence of primordial gravitational waves,” writes an ESA statement.
This null result doesn’t come as a surprise to many scientists in the field, however.