A tantalising glimpse of a parallel universe bumping against our own has been spotted by astronomers.
Scientists say they have seen hints in signals from the furthest reaches of space that suggest the fabric of our universe is being disrupted by another quite different universe.
The analysis could provide one of the first pieces of proof of the multi-verse theory, which says there are many alternate universes.
Dr Ranga-Ram Chary examined the noise and residual signals in the cosmic microwave background left over from the Big Bang (pictured) and found a number of scattered bright spots which he believes may be signals of another universe bumping into our own billions of years ago
That’s the tentative conclusion of an analysis by Ranga-Ram Chary, a researcher at Planck’s US data centre in California. Armed with Planck’s painstaking map of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) – light lingering from the hot, soupy state of the early universe – Chary revealed an eerie glow that could be due to matter from a neighbouring universe leaking into ours.
This sort of collision should be possible, according to modern cosmological theories that suggest the universe we see is just one bubble among many. Such a multiverse may be a consequence of cosmic inflation, the widely accepted idea that the early universe expanded exponentially in the slimmest fraction of a second after the big bang.
The cosmic microwave background (pictured) is radiation left over from the early stages of the universe following the Big Bang. Astronomers have shown it has hot and cold spots according to the distribution of matter in the early universe. Dr Chary has found a hidden signal in this that may come from another universe.
Once it starts, inflation never quite stops, so a multitude of universes becomes nearly inevitable. “I would say most versions of inflation in fact lead to eternal inflation, producing a number of pocket universes,” says Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an architect of the theory.
The existence of multiple universes – a multiverse – has been considered scientifically plausible. If all these universes emerged from the same Big Bang, then they’re likely sitting together in a row, vibrating. According to the theory, if these universes touch one another, the resulting collision would leave some sort of evidence. According to New Scientist, which first reported the Dr. Chary’s research, this is akin to two bubbles bumping into each other. These so-called “bubble universes”, which are expanding within the multiverse, bumped into each other as they expanded after the Big Bang, leaving an imprint on each other’s outer surface.
Dr. Chary says the signals he has seen suggest the alternate universe may be very different from our own. He says it could have a ratio of subatomic particles called baryons and photons that is about ten times greater than what we see in our own universe. This would mean that the physics in this alternate universe could be quite different from our own.
Dr. Chary explained, “The fine tuning of parameters in the early universe required to reproduce our present day universe suggests that our universe may simply be a region within an eternally inflating super-region. Many other regions beyond our observable universe would exist with each such region governed by a different set of physical parameters than the ones we have measured for our universe.”
Dr Jens Chluba, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge, told New Scientist: ‘To explain the signals that Dr Chary found with the cosmological recombination radiation, one needs a large enhancement in the number of (other particles) relative to photons.
‘In the realm of alternative universes, this is entirely possible.’
However, there are some who say the signals may simply be artifacts of interstellar dust clouding our view of our own universe.
Previous signals spotted by telescopes in the past that have hinted we are part of an ever-expanding multiverse have been quickly shown to be caused by dust.
David Spergel, from Princeton University, told New Scientist: ‘The dust properties are more complicated we have been assuming and I think that this is a more plausible explanation.’
However there are hopes that a proposed Nasa mission called the Primordial Inflation Explorer could answer some of the questions. It is expected to be considered for funding at the end of 2016.