Astrophysics has big news this week as an experiment has found ripples in space-time, called gravitational waves, formed by the collision of two black holes in space 1.4 billion light-years from our planet.
It is a big deal, and scientists are very excited about the latest discovery, as they could get more information about the universe.
The first major thing about this direct detection of gravitational waves by (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) LIGO is that it happened at all.
LIGO was the first ever experiment to directly find out these ripples in space-time, thus it’s the first direct physical proof that they really exist.
They were first detected in September 2015, a century after their first ever prediction by Einstein. It’s also been four decades since people begun working on the early incantations of the technology used by LIGO for the detection of gravitational waves.
Thus, these ripples in space-time have given confirmation to Einstein’s theory. These waves are a tremendous illustration of general relativity. Previously, such extreme examples were present just on paper in the theoretical world. Scientists can get a lot of information about the universe for such data. In case the theory by Einstein requires any adjustment, for say to make it compatible with quantum mechanics, it is likely that LIGO may find where it is.
The executive director of LIGO said that LIGO isn’t certainly likely to find such types of cracks or loose ends in Einstein’s theory, but there is likelihood.
According to a report in Space by Calla Cofield, ” There was big news in astrophysics this week: An experiment detected ripples in space-time, known as gravitational waves, created by two black holes colliding in space 1.4 billion light-years from Earth. That certainly sounds … complicated. But what’s the big deal, exactly? Why are scientists so excited about this new discovery? What does it tell them about the universe? Let’s break it down.”
But first, let’s back up a bit and talk about Albert Einstein. He was a smart guy — he figured out a lot of really subtle stuff about the universe, including that space is not a fixed, rigid backdrop, like a stage on which cosmic events play out. Instead, Einstein showed that space is flexible and influenced by the objects and events within it. Very massive objects create curves in space, kind of like the way a bowling ball curves a mattress when placed on top of it.
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, better known as LIGO, was the first experiment ever to directly detect these ripples in space-time, so it’s the first direct physical evidence that they actually exist. Its first detection came in September 2015, 100 years after Einstein first predicted their existence. It’s also been 40 years since people started working on the early incantations of the technology that LIGO uses to detect gravitational waves.
“For the second time in roughly four months, scientists have glimpsed elusive ripples vibrating through the fabric of space. Scientists announced the new observation of gravitational waves — also known as gravity waves — on June 15. Being able to detect these waves, potentially on a regular basis, opens a new window through which to observe the universe, the scientists said,” according to a news report published by Society For Science.
“The era of gravitational wave astronomy is upon us,” says Scott Ransom. This astronomer, who is not involved with LIGO, works at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Va. The new finding suggests that the first was not a fluke, nor necessarily rare. All they needed to see such waves was the right equipment. LIGO provided that. This system went into service last fall.
Gabriela González is a physicist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She’s also a spokesperson for LIGO. The finding of a second gravity-wave signal is quite important, she says. It means these may not be rare. Also important, she adds, is “that it’s different.” As such, she notes, “It shows that there’s a spectrum of black-hole systems out there.”