Observation of gravitational waves proves Einstein’s general theory of relativity

An international group of more than a thousand physicists and astronomers has proven the existence of gravitational waves, a 100 years after Albert Einstein’s initial predictions that dramatic outbursts of energy could generate ripples in spacetime at the speed of light. On September 14, 2015, a transient gravitational wave signal was simultaneously observed by the two detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the United States. The recorded signal was studied extensively and is thought to have resulted from the collision and merger of two black holes into a single, massive black hole, approximately 1.5 billion years ago. This gravitational wave signal demonstrates the existence of binary black hole systems and is not only the first direct observation of a binary black hole merger, but, more importantly, it represents the most convincing evidence for Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity to date. Because gravitational waves contain information about their origins and the nature of gravity itself, their discovery holds great promise for improving our understanding of the universe.

Click here to see the fascinating story behind the discovery of gravitational waves.

Journal reference: Abbott, B. P. et al. (LIGO Scientific Collaboration and Virgo Collaboration) (2016). Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger. Physical Review Letters, 116(6).

Image: Black hole at the center of the Centaurus A galaxy, 13 million lightyears away from Earth. Credit: ESO/WFI (Optical); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (Submillimetre); NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al. (X-ray).

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