In a huge development for the astrophysics community, scientists now claim they’ve proven the existence of gravitational waves, proving Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity so many decades later.
The researchers at the National Science Foundation, MIT, and Caltech have been collaborating on the project for a while now, using their two Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatories (LIGO) to measure atomic-level differences in gravitational interference. The group says that, on September 14, 2015, the LIGO recorded and measured weak gravitational waves emanating from the the merging of two distant supermassive black holes some 1.3 billion years ago.
What are gravitational waves?
Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time, caused by bodies moving through the universe. Einstein’s theory, back in 1915, stated that time and space are not two separate concepts, but are instead intertwined, and warp each other in strange ways. Newton theorised that gravity, is just every object in the universe attracted to every other. Einsten’s says that, instead, every object warps the space-time around it to create a gravitational “pull”. In theory, you create a ripple in space-time even when you walk down the street, but at such a miniscule level that it may as well be nonexistent. Instead, LIGO has been measuring gravitational waves from much denser bodies; black holes. The ripple generated by the explosive merging of two black holes is so powerful that it reaches us even lightyears away. And yet, these are so weak when measured on Earth that the scientists involved had to compensate for even the mildest interferences stemming from everyday Earth activity.
This is what merging black holes would look like.
And that’s where there might be a hitch. You see, the LIGO has been misinterpreted before. Readings are recorded in ungodly miniature measurements, about one in ten thousandth the space of proton, and despite all efforts to avoid it, it’s possible this breakthrough is nothing more than a false alarm. It will likely take months more of poring over the data available before a conclusive statement can be made. But, if the evidence holds, this will be the first time gravitational waves have been measured in human history. While most scientists have long-since accepted Einstein’s Theory, proving it has been an almost insurmountable feat.
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In addition to proving the Theory of Relativity, the findings give scientists another way to observe our universe. Gravitational waves can be used to study the behaviour of celestial bodies that don’t emit light, just like the black holes responsible for outing them. Theoretical physicists even say it might be possible to look back on the Big Bang itself; gravitational waves will let them see what happened at the singularity in a way no existing technology has been able to.