100 years ago, famous theoretical physicist Albert Einstein published his groundbreaking theory of relativity. In his theory, he predicted the existence of gravitational waves: ripples in space-time. Now, scientists have finally discovered these waves, proving Einstein was right.
What are gravitational waves?
Einstein’s theory reinterprets the idea behind gravitational pull, which is the pull between heavy objects, such as our home planet, is a warping of space and time. The theory predicted that when dealing with black holes, gravitational waves will ripple throughout the entire universe. Einstein himself never thought that these waves would be found. He believed that they were too small to measure. LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory are behind the find. The observatory can measure distortions one-thousandth the size of a proton. The discovery of gravitational waves can offer a lot of insight into some of physics biggest theories such as the Big Bang.
Hard work finally paying off
Scientists have been looking for these waves for nearly a century. The LIGO was created in 1999 just for this purpose, and the scientists have finally achieved their mission. The team was observing two black holes merging and producing a bigger, spinning black hole. The waves were detected in the last fraction of a second of the collision. Up until now, the merging of black holes had been predicted but never seen.
“We have detected gravitational waves. We did it,” said executive director David Reitze. “It’s the first time the Universe has spoken to us through gravitational waves. Up until now, we’ve been deaf.” A statement released by LIGO said that “This discovery comes at the culmination of decades of instrument research and development, through a worldwide effort of thousands of researchers, and made possible by dedicated support for LIGO from the National Science Foundation.”
LIGO member Deirdre Shoemaker said that it took them six months to convince themselves the discovery was real.