Physicists on Thursday announced that Albert Einstein’s gravitational waves do, in fact, exist. Gravitational waves are, in simple terms, ripples in spacetime which propagate as waves travelling outward from the source.
Einstein first predicted this phenomenon based on his theory of general relativity. Talking physics though, the concept of gravitational waves is contradictory to Newton’s theory of gravitation. These waves are produced when masses accelerate, which more closely relates to quantisation, thus is against the infinite time explanation provided by Newton.
Until now, there was indirect proof about the existence of gravitational waves. But scientists have now got proof about their absolute presence. US based Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) made the announcement about their existence just a few hours ago.
We have detected gravitational waves. We did it,
said David Reitze, executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), at a press conference in Washington.
The waves were first detected by the collision of two black holes. The LIGO houses the world’s most sophisticated detector and using this scientists listened for 20 thousandths of a second as a binary system of black holes circled around each other. Apparently, the observed binary system which created the gravitational waves merged 1.3 billion years ago.
The sensitivity of the detector used, scientists say, is so high that it could identify a distortion in spacetime a thousandth the diameter of one atomic nucleus across a 4 km strip of laser beam and mirror. LIGO was designed to measure land distances because gravitational waves stretch space in one direction and compress space in the other.
This is transformational,
said Prof Alberto Vecchio, of Birmingham University, and one of the researchers at LIGO.
“This observation is truly incredible science and marks three milestones for physics: the direct detection of gravitational waves, the first detection of a binary black hole, and the most convincing evidence to date that nature’s black holes are the objects predicted by Einstein’s theory.”
The waves were first detected on September 14th, 2015. Scientists accurately measured them and found that they clearly match the expected result from two merging black holes accelerating at half the speed of light. The rest of the time from then was utilized by leading researchers to rule out every possibility that could have been a potential source of this signal.
Gravitational waves redefine most of what we know about the universe. This new discovery will surely revolutionize the way scientists view the heavens.
What’s really amazing about this is this is the first time that this kind of a system has ever been seen – a binary black hole merger – and it’s proof that binary black holes exist in the universe.
LIGO Laboratory Executive Director, David Reitze, said,
This is the first time the universe has spoken to us through gravitational waves. Up until now we’ve been deaf to gravitational waves. Today, we’re able to hear them.
The scientists at LIGO as confident that this was merely the first of several detections during the first year of operation by the Advanced LIGO detectors.