Researchers from the BICEP2 collaboration have announced the first direct evidence supporting the theory, known as "cosmic inflation".
Their data also represents the first images of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time. These waves have been described as the "first tremors of the Big Bang".
Finally, the data confirms a deep connection between quantum mechanics and general relativity.
"This is really exciting. We have made the first direct image of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time across the primordial sky, and verified a theory about the creation of the whole universe," Chao-Lin Kuo, an assistant professor of physics at Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and a co-leader of the BICEP2 collaboration said.
These groundbreaking results came from observations by the BICEP2 telescope of the cosmic microwave background -- a faint glow left over from the Big Bang.
Tiny fluctuations in this afterglow provide clues to conditions in the early universe.
For example, small differences in temperature across the sky show where parts of the universe were denser, eventually condensing into galaxies and galactic clusters.
Because the cosmic microwave background is a form of light, it exhibits all the properties of light, including polarization. On Earth, sunlight is scattered by the atmosphere and becomes polarized, which is why polarized sunglasses help reduce glare. In space, the cosmic microwave background was scattered by atoms and electrons and became polarized too.