The world is immensely vast, compared to similar creatures as the human beings. We move about freely, astonished of the sheer size of our inhabited planet. Yet there is more.
We are miniscule to the Universe, tinier than what a speckle is to us. Nevertheless, science has advanced to great heights, and human beings have proven their outrageous intellect. One such discovery has shaken all platforms of modern physics, the discovery of Einstein’s speculated Gravitational Waves.
Primarily, what are Gravitational Waves?
Gravitational Waves are ripple like formations initiated on the fabric of spacetime by some of the most dynamic occurrences in the Universe. If a ball is converged to the surface of a still pool of water and created to move in circular motion about a fixed orbit, you will notice that waves follow in its path and spread outward through the pool. According to Albert Einstein, the similar happens when large mass move through the space-time realm, as described in his Theory of Relativity.
The discovery of Gravitational Waves
However, Einstein had formulated Gravitational Waves back in 1916. Scientists of modern times have announced the discovery of this crucial part of General Relativity in January 2016.
“We have detected Gravitational Waves. We did it!” announced David Reitze, Executive Director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) at a press conference in Washington.
The disturbance on space-time was created about 1.3 billion light years ago, somewhere beyond the Large Magellanic Cloud in the southern hemisphere sky due to the collision of two large black holes, one being 35 times heavier than the Sun and the other, slightly smaller. With the use of the world’s most sensitive detector, the scientists at LIGO concentrated for 20 thousandths of a second as the two black holes orbited each other, accelerated 250 times a second, and eventually ended in a violent collision. The merger created such an overwhelming pulse of strength that it conceived a gravitational field so strong, it deformed space-time in waves that spread throughout vacuumed space with amazing power. Like events are incredibly regular in space as to be thought by scientists, but this is the first of its kind to be detected.
This outcome has been much anticipated since trial and error for 50 years, with an additional 25 years consumed to optimize the perfect set of instruments to carry out the detection.
“This is transformational,” said Prof Alberto Vecchio, of the University of Birmingham, and one of the scientists at LIGO. “We have observed the Universe through light so far. But we can only see a part of what happens in the Universe. Gravitational Waves carry completely different information about phenomena in the universe. So we have opened a new way of listening to a broadcasting channel which will allow us to discover phenomena we have never seen before,” he said.
“This observation is truly incredible science and marks three milestones for physics: the direct detection of gravitational waves, the first detection of a binary black hole, and the most convincing evidence to date that nature’s black holes are the objects predicted by Einstein’s theory.”
How the LIGO works
When Gravitational Waves are absent:
- A lone laser beam is divided and pointed down two identical tubes, 4 kilometers long.
- Mirrors reflect both the divided beams back to a detector.
- Inside the detector, the laser lines reach in completely aligned forms.
- When superpositioned, they cancel each other out.
When a Gravitational Wave passes by:
- The space-time is deformed by a gravity wave and the two tubes change in length- one stretches while the other contracts repeatedly until the waves pass.
- As the length fluctuates, the crests and troughs of the two reflected beams of laser come back distorted.
- Superposition does not take place properly as they are out of alignment and so, they do not cancel each other out. This provides information on the gravity wave that has passed through.
This result has opened doors to further major breakthroughs and has completed the scientific curve of prediction, discovery and enlightenment. This announcement is not only a confirmation of the theorized cosmos, but also a confirmation of the beginning of a new era. This could enhance our knowledge towards finding out the mechanics of Binary stars and, eventually, the fate of the Universe.