The Big Bang that created the universe happened in just a trillionth of a second, say astronomers.
In that fleeting moment the cosmos grew trillions of times in size from the size of a small marble to the vast entity it is today.
The mind-boggling findings come from studies with a Nasa satelllite that has been mapping the left-over heat from that initial mega-explosion 13.7 billion years ago.
The Wilkinson Microwave Anistropy Probe, the size of a campervan and launched in 2001, has been measuring the oldest light in the universe – called the Cosmic Microwave Background.
From those observations, they have now teased out a key “polarization signal” that is around one billion times weaker than the heat felt from the sun.
Charles Bennett, principal investigator for the space probe, said: “We have new evidence that the universe suddenly grew from sub-microscopic to astronomical size in less than the blink of an eye.
“This tremendous inflation of the universe happened in much less than a trillionth of a second.”
Colleague David Spergel said: “During this growth spurt, a tiny region, likely no larger than a marble, grew to become larger than the visible universe.”
The universe did not expand smoothly, leading to clumping of matter that allowed galaxies of stars to form.
© Paul Sutherland. Unauthorised reproduction forbidden.