Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves


In a landmark discovery that holds the key to further studies of cosmos, scientists said that they have for the first detected gravitational waves hypothesized by Albert Einstein. According to them, the waves detected were coming from two black holes that orbited one another spiraled inward and smashed together. They said the waves were the product of a collision between two black holes 30 times as massive as the Sun, located 1.3 billion light years from Earth.

The announcement was made in Washington by scientists from the California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. The waves were detected using a pair of giant laser detectors in the United States, located in Louisiana and Washington State, capping a long quest to confirm the existence of these waves.

Detecting the gravitational waves required measuring 2.5 mile or 4 km laser beams to a precision 10,000 times smaller than a proton. The two laser instruments, which work in unison, are known as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). They are able to detect remarkably small vibrations from passing gravitational waves. After detecting the gravitational wave signal, the scientists said they converted it into audio waves and were able to listen to the sounds of the two black holes merging.

“We’re actually hearing them go thump in the night,” MIT physicist Matthew Evans said. “We’re getting a signal which arrives at Earth, and we can put it on a speaker, and we can hear these black holes go, ‘Whoop.’ There’s a very visceral connection to this observation.”

The scientists said they first detected the gravitational waves last September 14.

“We are really witnessing the opening of a new tool for doing astronomy,” MIT astrophysicist Nergis Mavalvala said in an interview. “We have turned on a new sense. We have been able to see and now we will be able to hear as well.”

Einstein in 1916 proposed the existence of gravitational waves as an outgrowth of his ground-breaking general theory of relativity, which depicted gravity as a distortion of space and time triggered by the presence of matter.