A team of physicists believes cosmic microwave background (CMB) holds the signature of a time before the Big Bang:
Although this microwave background is mostly smooth, the Cobe satellite in 1992 discovered small fluctuations that were believed to be the seeds from which the galaxy clusters we see in today's Universe grew.
Dr Adrienne Erickcek, from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and colleagues now believe these fluctuations contain hints that our Universe "bubbled off" from a previous one.
Their data comes from Nasa's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which has been studying the CMB since its launch in 2001.
Their model suggests that new universes could be created spontaneously from apparently empty space. From inside the parent universe, the event would be surprisingly unspectacular.
Arrow of time
Describing the team's work at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in St Louis, Missouri, co-author Professor Sean Carroll explained that "a universe could form inside this room and we’d never know".
The inspiration for their theory isn't just an explanation for the Big Bang our Universe experienced 13.7 billion years ago, but lies in an attempt to explain one of the largest mysteries in physics - why time seems to move in one direction.