Three scientists Now Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne have won the Nobel prize after spotting huge gravitational waves flowing through the universe. The waves are one of the most fundamental and mysterious forces flowing through the universe. Two black holes whipping around each other and colliding and then sending out the disturbance that was later picked up on Earth, by three winners.
WHAT ARE GRAVITATIONAL WAVES?
Gravitational waves are ripples in the curvature of space-time that travel outward from the source that created them.
100 year old Theory of Albert Einstein has been proved correct. Scientists working with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (Ligo) first confirmed the gravitational waves discovery in February 2016. A second set of waves was confirmed four months later on June 15.
The first waves detected, spotted in data collected on September 14, 2015 were the result of two black holes 36 and 29 times the mass of our sun merging. The second set of gravitational waves were sent travelling through spacetime when two black holes eight and 14 times the mass of our sun collided.
This collision took place 1.4 billion years ago and created a massive spinning black hole 21 times the mass of the sun. An additional sun’s worth of mass was transformed into gravitational energy. The second detection was “very strong” despite the smaller sizes of the black holes.
According to Einstein, who first predicted them in 1916 after forming his theory of general relativity, gravitational waves are ripples in the curvature of space-time that travel outward from the source that created them. He argued spacetime – any mathematical model that combines space and time – would create ripples that move across the universe at the speed of light.
What is Ligo?
The research project is one of the largest gravitational wave observatories in the world and is spread across two sites in the US – one in Washington and the other in Louisiana.
It is the world’s largest gravitational wave observatory and it studies the properties of light and of space to detect the origins of gravitational waves.
The Advanced Ligo project, which started being used in October 2015 after a seven-year redesign, was designed by California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology staff but involves researchers from 80 worldwide institutions. “What Ligo is specialising in is looking at these pretty rapid frequencies from 10 hertz up to 1,000 hertz events which correspond to extreme astrophysical things,” Lasenby said.
To do this, the interferometer has two 4km long arms which laser beams are shone along, reflecting off mirrors at each end. “Ligo scientists can look for the pattern of arm length changes that we expect from different types of gravitational wave source: if they see the pattern, they’ll know a gravitational wave has passed by,” says the project.
The system is looking for four different categories of gravitational waves, each of which has their own patterns that could be sensed by the equipment.
In addition to Ligo, the world’s largest radio telescope in China was completed in September 2016. Dubbed, Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (Fast), the telescope features the world’s largest aperture, at 500 metres, and has a total area equal to 30 football fields. It not only surpasses the Arecibo Observatory – once the world’s largest single-aperture telescope – in size, but also in sensitivity and overall performance.
Once in full operation, Fast will search space for gravitational waves, galaxies and the origin of life.
Research from last year into the Ligo-Virgo collaboration discovered that the binary black holes it found, and were said to be responsible for the gravitational waves, may be primordial entities that formed just after the Big Bang.
Based on general relativity, the research team from Kyoto University studied how often black holes merge. The binary black holes found by the Ligo-Virgo team would match this theory if they were primordial, and if they made up one thousandth of all dark matter in the universe.
Primordial black hole binaries were heavily discussed in the 1990s but observations suggested they were limited. At present, no-one has found any primordial black holes, possibly making the Ligo-Virgo observations the first of their kind.
If further data support this observation, it could mark the first confirmed finding of a primordial black hole, guiding theories about the beginnings of the universe. NASA is working closely with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a concept for a space-based gravitational wave observatory.
NASA missions are searching the sky for fleeting X-ray and gamma-ray signals from LIGO events. Detecting the light emitted by a gravitational wave source would enable a much deeper understanding of the event than through either technique alone.
Gravitational waves discovery could allow scientists to build something like a time machine to look into the earliest and darkest parts of the universe.
The “ripples in the fabric of spacetime” — which scientists are to announce have been detected for the first time — could allow people to reach back and understand how black holes and the universe itself were formed. Gravitational waves are ripples in the curvature of spacetime that are generated in certain gravitational interactions and propagate as waves outward from their source at the speed of light.
The waves have been detected by the LIGO project, based in the US, which uses highly-sensitive instruments to try and spot the waves as they move past the Earth. Gravitational waves are ripples in spacetime itself, and are thrown out by black holes and dying stars —which scientists might now be able to get a better view of.
Now scientists hope that they can find success launching even more ambitious attempts to capture the waves. Some of those will be launched into space, while others will be based on the Earth.
Launching the equipment into space will allow scientists to get away from the noise and bustle of our planet, and could allow them to isolate the “sound” of the waves even more accurately. It will also allow for much more space — and the planned projects are thousands of kilometres wide.
One of the most ambitious of those projects is eLISA, which is set to be launched in the 2020.