Washington, Nov 30 (ANI): A new analysis of the relic radiation has suggested that the universe got its start eons earlier and has cycled through myriad episodes of birth and death, with the Big Bang merely the most recent in a series of starting guns.
That startling notion, proposed by Roger Penrose of the University of Oxford and Vahe Gurzadyan of the Yerevan State University in Armenia, goes against the standard theory of cosmology known as inflation.
The researchers have based their findings on circular patterns they discovered in the cosmic microwave background, the ubiquitous microwave glow left over from the Big Bang, reports Wired.com.
The circular features are regions where tiny temperature variations in the otherwise uniform microwave background are smaller than average. Those features cannot be explained by the highly successful inflation theory, which posits that the infant cosmos underwent an enormous growth spurt, ballooning from something on the scale of an atom to the size of a grapefruit during the universe's first tiny fraction of a second. Inflation would either erase such patterns or could not easily generate them, said Penrose.
"The existence of large-scale coherent features in the microwave background of this form would appear to contradict the inflationary model and would be a very distinctive signature of Penrose's model," said cosmologist David Spergel of Princeton University.
But, he added, "The paper does not provide enough detail about the analysis to assess the reality of these circles."
"The dark matter material along the burst therefore has this uniform character. This is what is seen as a circle in our cosmic microwave background sky, and it should look like a fairly uniform circle," said Penrose.
Each circle has a lower-than-average variation in temperature, which is just what he and Gurzadyan found when they analysed data from NASA's orbiting Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, or WMAP, which scanned the entire sky for nine years.
But Spergel said he is concerned that the team has not accounted for variations in the noise level of WMAP data acquired over different parts of the sky.
WMAP examined different sky regions for different amounts of time. Maps of the microwave background generated from those regions studied the longest would have lower noise and smaller recorded variations in the temperature of the microwave glow. Those lower-noise maps could artificially produce the circles that Penrose and Gurzadyan ascribe to their model of a cyclic universe, said Spergel.
The researchers describe their controversial findings in an article posted at arXiv.org on November 17. (ANI)