Researchers have discovered a new general production mechanism for gravitational waves generated by a phenomenon known as oscillations, which can originate in many cosmological theories from the fragmentation into solitonian “clumps” of the inflaton field that drove the rapid expansion of the early universe, according to a new study published in the journal Science. Physical review letters.
The findings pave the way for exciting new insights into the universe’s earliest moments.
The period of inflation, which occurred just after the Big Bang, is thought to have caused the universe to expand exponentially. In many cosmological theories, a period of rapid expansion follows the formation of vibrations. Oscilloscopes are a type of massive local nonlinear structure that can be formed by fields, such as an inflaton field, that oscillate at high frequencies. These structures can persist for long periods, and as the researchers found, their eventual decay can generate a large amount of gravitational waves, which are ripples in space-time.
In their study, Kavli Institute for Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU) project researcher Kaloyan D. Lozanov, and a visiting associate scientist at the Kavli Institute IPMU, International Center for Quantum Field Measurement Systems for Universe and Particle Studies (QUP) Senior Scientist, Assistant Professor at the Research Center for High Energy Accelerators (KEK), Professor Volodymyr Takestov, simulated the evolution of the inflaton field during the early universe and found that the vibrations were already there. Then they found that the decay of the oscillations was able to generate gravitational waves that could be detected by incoming gravitational-wave observatories.
The results provide a new test of the dynamics of the early universe independently of the conventionally studied cosmic microwave background radiation. The discovery of these gravitational waves would open a new window on the very first moments of the universe, and could help shed light on some pressing fundamental questions in cosmology.
With the continued development of gravitational-wave detectors and supercomputing resources, we can expect to gain more insights into the very first moments of the universe in the coming years. Overall, the new study demonstrates the power of combining theoretical models with advanced computational techniques and observations to reveal new insights into the evolution of the universe.
Details of their studies have been published in Physical review letters on May 2.