In an ironic turn of events – one group of astronomers really can say that “dust got in their eyes.”
It may not have gotten directly in their eyes, and just in their eye-sight, but the point remains. The discovery that was made in the spring by the group that called themselves “Bicep” had announced that they detected, or discovered ripples in the sky that they claimed were the opening notes of the Big Bang.
The gravitational waves that Bicep thought they saw, however, would go on to be questioned by many astronomers. They believed that the group underestimated how much impact interstellar dust would have on what they saw – and in turn, contaminated the results.
The group did acknowledge the possibility in June, in an official report. However, a newly released, and highly-anticipated report by the astronomers using data from the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite confirmed the criticism they have previously received from other astronomers.
They concluded that there was plenty of dust in the view and that what they saw – or what was produced would easily be confused for the patterns that would appear to be the gravitational waves – but in fact, were nothing more than a combination of dust molecules.
Their report went on to admit that “even in the faintest dust-emitting regions, there are no ‘clean’ windows in the sky.”
However, that might be the biggest piece of information that was definitively gathered from this entire process so far. Though astronomers will be able to go back, and reevaluate the data, and potentially learn from the data that was gathered – the biggest bit of definite information is that there really are no clean windows – as they put it.
Interstellar dust is more prominent than anyone had previously thought. The truth is that the gravitational waves very-well may exist, and are just not as strong as originally anticipated. Theorists, astronomers, and scientists will have to make adjustments.
Dust can seriously impact studies like this, and that was something that previously – was known, obviously – as other astronomers pointed out afterward – but impact studies on a far greater scale when looking at things like this than they had originally anticipated.
It really lends to the idea that “clean windows” into space don’t exist anywhere.