Feb 11, 2016 | Atlanta, GA
It took nearly 1.5 billion years to arrive. It was here for less than two hundred milliseconds. And its presence moved a pair of 2.5-mile vacuum tubes a distance of 1/400th the diameter of a proton. Yet despite its incredibly short stay and the microscopic movement, it is enough for scientists to claim one of the most significant discoveries in the world of physics this century.
For the first time ever, a gravitational wave has been observed. A team of global researchers announced the finding on Thursday, February 11. The discovery comes 100 years after Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in his theory of general relativity.
Gravitational waves are ripples in the very same fabric of the universe that bend and distort space-time. They are produced during violent cosmic disturbances.
In this case, the observed wave was created when two black holes collided approximately a billion and a half years ago, sending a ripple hurtling through space at the speed of light. It arrived on September 14, 2015, and was detected by LIGO – the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory — a National Science Foundation-funded physics experiment that has searched for waves for more than a decade.
The LIGO Scientific Collaboration includes two Georgia Tech College of Sciences faculty members, and their team of 10 postdoctoral fellows, graduate, and undergraduate students. One of them is School of Physics Associate Professor Laura Cadonati, who chairs LIGO’s Data Analysis Council.
Read more about the important role that Georgia Tech played in this discovery.