Science Magazine's 2016 Breakthrough Of The Year Is Gravitational Waves Observatory

Posted: Dec 23 2016, 5:05am CST | by , in Latest Science News


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Science Magazine's 2016 Breakthrough of the Year is Gravitational Waves Observatory
An artist's impression of two black holes creating ripples in the fabric of space-time, also known as gravitational waves. Credit: NASA
  • The 2016 Breakthrough of the Year is Gravitational Waves

The breakthrough of the year for 2016 is nothing other than gravitational waves.

Ripples in spacetime in the form of gravitational waves sure made the scientific world stand up and take notice. This made a prognostication of Albert Einstein made a century ago seem to have come true. It has been a four decade long quest to spot these ripples in time.

Scientists are seeing this as the birth of a novel field known as gravitational wave astronomy. Way back in 1915, Einstein said that gravity is there due to the warping of spacetime. The gravitational waves travel at the speed of light.

Physicists that did their research with LIGO said that they had seen exactly what Einstein had predicted a hundred years ago. As two black holes that were far away collided, these gravitational waves were generated and noted down by scientists on earth.

Einstein had himself in his times wavered over whether gravitational waves existed or not. In Einstein’s time the instruments needed to note down the presence of these waves were not up to the mark. The gravitational waves were too feeble to be detected.

By the time the 60s arrived in full swing, a lot more had become common knowledge in astronomy. This laid the basis of the instrument called LIGO which was used to detect these waves.

The interferometer has two arms which have mirrors at their ends. This is placed in a huge vacuum chamber. Via a scintillating of the laser light between the twin mirrors, the arm’s length could be noted down accurately.

The gravitational waves could stretch the reading by a significant length. This is precisely what the LIGO team found out that sparked an interest in this whole new field of gravitational wave astronomy.

All this serves to point out the validity of Einstein’s gravity theories. General relativity has been vindicated. Physicists are now looking around to see what happens next.

LIGO is a good detector of all sorts of astronomical and physical phenomena. Other detectors such as the VIRGO in Italy and the Kamioka in Japan are there as well.

There are some who are trying to measure gravitational waves in other ways too. The launching of LISA is another such project which lies in the future. The mapping of the starry sky above is a large scheme that will pay off in huge dividends soon.

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