In a galaxy far, far away, two black holes circled each other. They got closer and closer, pulled together by their own gravitational fields, until finally 1.3 billion years ago they collided in a massive explosion the size of which hadn’t been detected since the Big Bang itself. The explosion was so large that energy the equivalent of 3 solar masses was released in the form of gravitational radiation, which rippled out into space until five months ago they intersected with earth. For the first time in history, scientists were able to detect the gravitational waves (unlike light and sound, these waves are actually distortions in space itself).
Two huge machines at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory or LIGO that detect tiny changes in the shape of space recorded the waves hitting the Earth early in the morning of September 14, 2015. The Earth stretched and contracted about 1/100,000 of a nanometer as the space around it was distorted by the waves. Using computer simulations, the scientists determined that two stellar objects, one 29 times and the other 36 times the size of the sun, collided and formed an object 62 times the mass of the sun while releasing an enormous amount of energy which created the waves in the fabric of space. This observation is huge, it not only tests and reaffirms Einstein’s theory of gravity and the general theory of relativity, but also conclusively proves that black holes exist (black holes would be dense enough to cause the explosion).
It is amazing to think of how much there still is to learn about the universe. Using new technology we can explore farther and farther into space and discover things that far exceed our wildest imaginations! Keep up the good work LIGO!
Feb 12, 2016