Black holes from a previous universe shine light on our own

Cold spots are a hot topic in Conformal Cyclic Cosmology. Stephanie Rowlands reports.

Stephen Hawking suggested evidence of previous universes could be detected in the cosmic microwave background. Has he been proved right?

Stephen Hawking suggested evidence of previous universes could be detected in the cosmic microwave background. Has he been proved right?

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Cosmologists say they have found remnants of a bygone universe in the afterglow of the Big Bang found in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB).

The discovery gives weight to the controversial theory of Conformal Cyclic Cosmology, or CCC, that suggests our universe is just one of many, built from the remains of a previous one in the Big Bang 13.6 billion years ago.

The theory describes an eternal cycle of Big Bang events, repeating into the far distant future, the end of our universe giving rise to a new one.

A team led by Oxford University mathematics emeritus Roger Penrose, a former collaborator of the late Stephen Hawking, claims in a new paper lodged on the preprint server arXiv to have found signs of so-called Hawking Points, anomalous high energy features in the CMB.

Penrose and colleagues say that these anomalies were made from the last moments of black holes evaporating through “Hawking radiation”.

Although black holes are famous for never releasing any light, Hawking proposed a subtle way for light and particles to escape over time.

Through quantum mechanical effects, every black hole slowly shrinks and fades, losing its energy through Hawking radiation.

“This burst of energy from a now decayed black hole then spreads out quickly in our newly formed universe, leaving a warm central point with a cooling spot around it,” says astronomer Alan Duffy from Australia’s Swinburne University and Lead Scientist of the Royal Institution of Australia, who was not involved in the research.

“In other words, they have proposed that we can search for an echo of a previous universe in the CMB.”

Conformal Cyclic Cosmology strongly conflicts with the current standard model explaining the evolution of the universe.

“Unlike previous cyclic universe models, there is no ‘Big Crunch’ where everything comes together again,” explains Duffy.

“Instead CCC links the similarity of the current accelerating expansion of the universe by dark energy with early expansion of inflation in the Big Bang.”

While mathematically the two epochs of expansion are similar, not all cosmologists are convinced that the Big Bang eventually leads to another Big Bang from a future empty universe.

The results from Penrose and colleagues are likely to be met with skepticism by many mainstream cosmologists.

Penrose first claimed to have detected Hawking points in 2010. Other researchers shot down the claim in flames, arguing that his discoveries were nothing more than random noise contained in the data.

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