It’s true! Yes, it really is! Gravitational waves do exist and after 100 years of searching for the last major prediction of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, an international team of physicists announced this amazing discovery.
The gravitational wave signal was detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the United States, on September 14 last year, and the remarkable announcement was made at a press conference yesterday: “We have detected gravitational waves. We did it!” confirmed David Reitze, Executive Director of the LIGO Laboratory.
Einstein stated that space-time can be bent by gravity, and the more massive an object is, the greater the effect. If this massive objects move, they create an oscillation or curves in space-time, the so-called gravitational waves.
Basically, if and when cataclysmic events happen, such as black holes merging or stars exploding, these curves can ripple out elsewhere as gravitational waves. Imagine dropping a stone in a pond and the circular waves it creates – it’s like the space is the pond, the cataclysmic event is the stone and the circles in the water are represented in the form of gravitational waves.
The waves discovered last year by LIGO were created by a pair of merging black holes, one of the few events thought powerful enough to produce gravitational waves that can warp the fabric of space time, creating ripples that spread out across the Universe and that we now can detect. The two black holes merged about 1.3 billion years ago and had similar masses - one weighing 36 times the mass of the Sun and the other 29.
This discovery has a statistical significance of 5.1 sigmas, which means that there’s only a 1 in 6 million chance that the result is a coincidence.
Hear the amazing sound of the two Black Holes colliding:
Professor Bob Bingham, a physicist at the Science and Technology Facilities Council at Harwell Campus in the U.K. said that "this discovery leads the way to look back in time at the creation of the universe, with significant repercussions for ongoing astronomical research."
This historic finding marks an entirely new era in astronomy.