Gravitational waves, Einstein’s ripples in spacetime, spotted for first time
Long ago, deep in space, two massive black holes—the ultrastrong gravitational fields left behind by gigantic stars that collapsed to infinitesimal points—slowly drew together. The stellar ghosts spiraled ever closer, until, about 1.3 billion years ago, they whirled about each other at half the speed of light and finally merged. The collision sent a shudder through the universe: ripples in the fabric of space and time called gravitational waves. Five months ago, they washed past Earth. And, for the first time, physicists detected the waves, fulfilling a 4-decade quest and opening new eyes on the heavens.
The discovery marks a triumph for the 1000 physicists with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), a pair of gigantic instruments in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana. Rumors of the detection had circulated for months. Today, at a press conference in Washington, D.C., the LIGO team made it official. “We did it!” says David Reitze, a physicist and LIGO executive director at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. “All the rumors swirling around out there got most of it right.”
Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves 100 years ago, but directly detecting them required mind-boggling technological prowess and a history of hunting.
via … sciencemag.org/news
IT’S OFFICIAL: Gravitational waves have been detected, Einstein was right
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have detected gravitational waves. We did it!”
After 100 years of searching, an international team of physicists has confirmed the existence of Einstein’s gravitational waves, marking one of the biggest astrophysical discoveries of the past century. It’s a huge deal, because it not only improves our understanding of how the Universe works, it also opens up a whole new way of studying it.
The gravitational wave signal was detected by physicists at LIGO on September 14 last year, and the historic announcement was made at a press conference this morning. Experts are already saying the discovery is a shoo-in for a Nobel Prize
Gravitational waves are so exciting because they were the last major prediction of Einstein’s general theory of relativity that had to be confirmed, and discovering them will help us understand how the Universe is shaped by mass.
“Gravitational waves are akin to sound waves that travelled through space at the speed of light,” said gravitational researcher David Blair, from the University of Western Australia. “Up to now humanity has been deaf to the universe. Suddenly we know how to listen. The Universe has spoken and we have understood.”
via … sciencealert.com