A Century After Einstein Predicted Them, We Finally Found Gravitational Waves
In June of 1916, Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves based on his general theory of relativity, which had been published the previous year. This prediction was a bold one; too bold even for Einstein himself, who waffled on its likelihood a few times later on. But 100 years after his initial hypothesis, on February 11, 2016, scientists from LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) announced that they had detected gravitational waves for the very first time. The waves were first observed on September 14, 2015, after which a long verification process ensued. The team now knows that these waves were caused by the collision of two black holes, each of which were about 30 times the mass of our sun. More than one billion light-years away from our planet, they accelerated around one another until they finally merged into one. The implications of this discovery are as far-reaching as they are mind-blowing. Astrophysicists believe that it will open the door to observing cosmic strings, colliding neutron stars, and perhaps a record of the "trigger" of the Big Bang. Gravitational waves could also reveal more about the properties of dark energy, the mysterious force that accounts for most of the mass of our universe.
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Key Facts In This Video
Gravitational waves occur when masses accelerate and change the distortion of space. (0:37)
LIGO uses lasers to measure the changes in the distances between the ends of long tunnels. (1:32)
The detection of gravitational waves opens the door to a completely new way of studying the universe. (2:36)