An elite team of American astronomers may have finally proved the existence of the elusive gravitational waves, the ripples of space and time predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years ago, in 1916.
On Thursday, February 11, 2016, scientists will hold a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, to discuss about their ongoing efforts to observe gravitational waves— ripples of space and time that are thought to transport energy traveling at the speed of light across the universe. If these elusive particle have been spotted, the discovery will be worth a Nobel Prize.
Rumors that the LIGO group (a Louisiana-based space observatory) has spotted gravitational waves began circulating last month in the astrophysics community. Cosmologist Lawrence Krauss (which is not a member of the LIGO team) tweeted this rumor first in 25 sept. 2015:
Rumor of a gravitational wave detection at LIGO detector. Amazing if true. Will post details if it survives.
And, on February 3, theoretical physicist Cliff Burgess, sent an email to the entire McMaster physics department deemed the rumors credible.
I’ve been around a long time, so I’ve seen rumors come and go,
This one seems more credible.
After all the rumors over the past few months I certainly expect them to announce a detection at this point,
said Alberto Sesana.
We have to bear in mind that LIGO is one experiment and the only one that can detect such sources. If they claim to have detected gravitational waves, it cannot be confirmed by another instrument, and that is always an issue. But they have been very cautious in doing this properly. I’m confident they have clear and strong evidence for it.
A Century of Work
In General Theory of Relativity, the equations drawn up by Einstein showed that gravitational waves must be generated by the acceleration of massive objects. The most dramatic or violent events of our universe such as supernovae, collisions of neutron stars and mergers of black holes cause ripples to spread through the grid.
By the time the waves reach Earth, the ripples are on the order of a billionth the diameter of an atom, and thus scientists have had to be exceedingly clever to find ways to detect these elusive ripples.
In order to try to detect them, physicists built LIGO, the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory.
Gravitational waves cause space itself to stretch in one direction and get squeezed in a perpendicular direction,
the LIGO has explained.
In the wake of a gravitational wave, one arm of an interferometer lengthens while the other shrinks, then vice versa. The arms will change lengths in this way for as long as it takes the wave to pass.
So, If LIGO has directly detected the first evidence of gravitational waves, it can open a new era in astronomy and cosmology. Once we find them, they’ll let us explore the furthest and oldest reaches of the universe.
Since gravitational waves don’t interact with matter, they travel through the universe completely unimpeded, giving us a crystal-clear view of the gravitational-wave universe,
the LIGO has noted.
They will carry information about their origins that is free of the distortion or alteration suffered by electromagnetic radiation as it travels through millions of light years of intergalactic space. With this completely new way of examining astrophysical objects and phenomena, gravitational waves will truly open a new window on the Universe, providing astronomers and other scientists with their first glimpses of previously unseen and unseeable wonders, and greatly adding to our understanding of the nature of space and time itself.
And don’t forget to mention that (So … neat!):
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first publication of Albert Einstein’s prediction of the existence of gravitational waves,
Martin Hendry said:
I can’t say anything more at this stage than wait and see. Or should that be “watch this spacetime?
We seriously can’t wait. What about you?