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The History of Gravitational Waves

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The History of Gravitational Waves

Jasmin Gill, Staff Writer

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In Einstein’s general theory of relativity, he predicted the existence of gravitational waves. Gravitational waves are ripples in space time and are primarily caused by things like colliding black holes and the formation of supernovae.

These gravitational waves were predicted to exist in 1916, however it wouldn’t be until the Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico discovered a system (a binary pulsar—two pulsars orbiting around each other) that was perfect for monitoring gravitational wave production in 1974, that any kind of scientific backing was found for the prediction. The Arecibo Radio Observatory was able to determine the rate at which the two pulsars were getting closer together. Using that data, they were able to determine that they were emitting gravitational waves.

Despite the mathematical evidence for Einstein’s theory being present and widely accepted, there wasn’t any concrete data on gravitational waves until late 2015. This was only possible because of the use of an interferometer, a device that allows scientists to collect data using beams of light to create an interference pattern that can be analyzed, and are specifically useful in helping scientists find measurements down to the atomic level.

The first discovery of gravitational waves was by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), the world’s largest gravitational wave observatory. Using their extremely sensitive interferometer, LIGO has been able to collect data on gravitational waves that were once thought impossible.

LIGO’s founders received a Nobel Prize for their work in 2017, after LIGO detected gravitational waves on four separate dates, and with one being corroborated by Virgo (a European gravitational-wave detector).

According to a report made by LIGO themselves on December 3rd of this year, there has been new gravitational wave findings, as well as new information about past observatory runs being discovered. LIGO’s discoveries have helped build a new field of scientific study and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.

 

 

https://www.ligo.caltech.edu/

https://www.ligo.caltech.edu/news/ligo20181203

http://time.com/4217820/gravitational-waves-history/

http://www.physics.org/article-questions.asp?id=138

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The History of Gravitational Waves