Recent rumors of the success in detecting gravitational waves, or as some scientists put it “very weak spacetime wiggles which propagate at the speed of light” were officially confirmed Thursday.
“Ladies and gentlemen! We have detected gravitational waves, we did it!,” LIGO laboratory executive director David Reitze announced in Washington.
“These gravitational waves were produced by two colliding black holes, [that] came together, merged and formed a single black hole about 1.3 billion years ago,” Reitze said.
These ripples in the fabric of spacetime are one of the most important variables in Einstein’s theory of relativity and it took astronomers decades to detect them, although they were pretty sure that gravitational waves existed.
The discovery has been made with the use of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) – a system of two detectors constructed to spot tiny vibrations from passing gravitational waves. Funded by the National Science Foundation, LIGO’s identical detectors are located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington.
The observatories, which are “the most precise measuring device ever built,” recorded a signal on September 14, 2015, “nearly simultaneously,” and the signal “had a very specific characteristic,” the laboratories’ director said.
“As time went forward, the frequency went up,” he explained, adding that it took scientists months of careful checking and analysis to confirm that what had been discovered was exactly gravitational waves.
“Let’s say this: The first discovery of gravitational waves is a Nobel Prize-winning venture,” said physicist Bruce Allen of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover, Germany.
But the prize will be most possibly given not to theorists, but those who are behind the mechanism that confirmed the existence of the waves, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Pavel Ivanov told RT.
Russian scientists have massively contributed to both of the advances, Ivanov explained, mentioning Soviet scientist Yakov Zeldovich and member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vladimir Braginsky, who has been closely working with Kip Thorne, the American astrophysicist at the forefront of the discovery.
The idea to look for the waves was suggested and published in science magazines by Soviet physicists Mikhail Gertsenshtein and Vladislav Pustovoit in 1962, and then developed further by academic Zeldovich and his followers, who explored the theory of gravitational waves. Braginsky and his teams have been working on developing detectors for LIGO.