Gravitational Waves Discovered?

If Einstein were alive today, there is no doubt he would be digging through his old research notebooks to reflect on his Theory of Gravitational Relativity and comparing it to what was recently seen. Though scientists have long known that gravity exists, they weren’t able to see it. That’s because most of the objects that rely on gravity use such small waves that there is nothing powerful enough to see them.

However, when you want to observe something that requires a large mass, there may be no better source than two black holes merging into one, especially when those black holes are far larger than the sun itself.

Lab notebook

Moving Forces and Gravity

Einstein had a theory that gravity was so powerful that it had the ability to bend space and time. The theory was almost impossible to prove, because gravity waves can’t be seen with the naked eye, and if space or time is changed, it could be impossible to prove, because of the paradox of knowing things that happen in one space or time while being in another. In other words, once these things change, how would you know they changed if they didn’t exist in the current time or space?

Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory

The waves were observed by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory or LIGO. When it comes to observations in science, and especially ones as important as this one, the potential for a “fluke” to have occurred has to be considered. In this case, the observation was the combined effort of a facility in Hanford, Washington and a facility in Livingston, Louisiana. This is because LIGO is divided between the two facilities in order to produce a perpendicular laser effect that can be modified by gravitational waves. After comparing notes, the researchers found the chances of this event being a fluke are less than one in about six million.

Numbers to Consider

So, how big does something have to be in order to produce a measurable gravitational wave with the technology that exists today? The merging black holes are calculated to be around 95 miles across. However, one has twenty-nine times the mass of our sun, while the other has 36 times the mass. Now consider the power that had to be created to allow scientists to fill their research notebooks with these results.

Imagine, if you can, all of the stars in the observable universe. Now, gather them together and consider the amount of power that they would have as one unit, pulled together with all their various elements. Now compare what you imagine to the idea that this merger had fifty times the power that all of those stars combined have.

This merged black hole is being described as a “chirp” in the space-time fabric. The chirp is the result of $1.1 billion worth of effort that spanned over 40 years—more, if you count every single bit of effort put into the discovery since man had the idea that there was such a thing as gravity.

Gravitational Waves

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