Gravitational waves detection: New era for astronomy

Gravitational waves detectionThe sensational discovery of gravitational waves would usher in a new era for astronomy, according to physicists. It would pave way to understand the universe and various issues confront the planetary motion.

It may be mentioned that physicists have announced the discovery of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space time that were first anticipated by Albert Einstein a century ago.

“We have detected gravitational waves. We did it,” said David Reitze, executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo), at a press conference in Washington.

The announcement is the climax of a century of speculation, 50 years of trial and error, and 25 years perfecting a set of instruments so sensitive they could identify a distortion in spacetime a thousandth the diameter of one atomic nucleus across a 4km strip of laser beam and mirror.

The phenomenon detected was the collision of two black holes. Using the world’s most sophisticated detector, the scientists listened for 20 thousandths of a second as the two giant black holes, one 35 times the mass of the sun, the other slightly smaller, circled around each other.

Expected signals are extremely subtle, and disturb the machines, known as interferometers, by just fractions of the width of an atom.

But the black hole merger was picked up by two widely separated LIGO facilities in the US.

The merger radiated three times the mass of the sun in pure gravitational energy.

“The detection marked a key moment in scientific history” said Prof Stephen Hawking, who is an expert on black holes..

“Gravitational waves provide a completely new way at looking at the Universe. The ability to detect them has the potential to revolutionise astronomy. This discovery is the first detection of a black hole binary system and the first observation of black holes merging,” he said.

Much of the R&D work for the Washington and Louisiana machines was done at Europe’s smaller GEO600 interferometer in Hannover.

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