GRAVITATIONAL WAVES DISCOVERED
- Gravitational waves are ‘ripples’ in space-time caused by some of the most violent and energetic processes in the Universe.
- Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916 in his general theory of relativity.
- Einstein’s mathematics showed that massive accelerating objects (such as neutron stars or black holes orbiting each other) would disrupt space-time in such a way that ‘waves’ of undulating space-time would propagate in all directions away from the source.
- These cosmic ripples would travel at the speed of light, carrying with them information about their origins, as well as clues to the nature of gravity itself.
- The strongest gravitational waves are produced by cataclysmic events such as colliding black holes, supernovae (massive stars exploding at the end of their lifetimes), and colliding neutron stars.
- Other waves are predicted to be caused by the rotation of neutron stars that are not perfect spheres, and possibly even the remnants of gravitational radiation created by the Big Bang.
- The first direct observation of gravitational waves was not made until 2015, when a signal generated by the merger of two black holes was received by theLaser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory(LIGO) gravitational wave detectors in Livingston and in Hanford.
- The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics was subsequently awarded to Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish (Names are not important) for their role in the direct detection of gravitational waves.