(CNN) — There’s no way for us to know exactly what happened some 13.8 billion years ago, when our universe burst onto the scene. But scientists announced Monday a breakthrough in understanding how our world as we know it came to be.
If the discovery holds up to scrutiny, it’s evidence of how the universe rapidly expanded less than a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.
“It teaches us something crucial about how our universe began,” said Sean Carroll, a physicist at California Institute of Technology, who was not involved in the study. “It’s an amazing achievement that we humans, doing science systematically for just a few hundred years, can extend our understanding that far.”
What’s more, researchers discovered direct evidence for the first time of what Albert Einstein predicted in his general theory of relativity: Gravitational waves.
These are essentially ripples in space-time, which have been thought of as the “first tremors of the Big Bang,” according to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.