100 years ago, Albert Einstein was talking about ripples in space and time produced by the movement of objects with very large mass, issuing the idea of gravitational waves.
100 years ago, Albert Einstein was talking about ripples in space and time produced by the movement of objects with very large mass, issuing the idea of gravitational waves. Einstein’s theory could not be proven for a long time, but recently a team of American scientists announced they could detect the waves directly. According to NASA astrophysicist, Ira Thorpe, they have a structure similar to that of light. They are a type of electromagnetic radiation, but they are in fact the space and time we all know. He said a comparison can be made: if we put in motion electrically charged particles, we get light but when we move entire masses of matter, we get gravitational waves.
Direct detection comes after a violent cosmic event, such as the case of two black holes, one 35 times larger than the Sun, the other 30 times larger, that fused over a billion light years away from us. In the last moments, they spun around each other dozens of times per second, each having half the speed of light when slamming into each other, according to astrophysicists.
Here is science journalist Alexandru Mironov: “This is a groundbreaking event. It is a moment in history equivalent to the discovery of the Higgs boson, the particle that grants mass to any substance. Everyone knows that if you throw a ball up in the air, it falls back down to Earth, we learned in school that the Moon revolves around the Earth, the Earth around the Sun, all these are gravitational attraction. The question is: how does it work? Probably by gravitational waves, there are probably some particles, just as light has photons – small bits of light, there is probably a graviton, experts supposed, and one day they will catch it and uncover it. They built for this purpose special devices, laser interferometers, called LIGO, which emit two perpendicular laser beams, balanced and calibrated so they don’t get moved by anything. These waves lie in waiting. They are a trap for gravitational waves that may manifest somewhere out there. It so happened that one billion light years away from us, there was a concentration of matter and energy so large that it has shaken the entire fabric of the Universe, and the movement got to us, this seism of gravitational waves.”
After discovering a few years ago the so-called God particle, the scientific community considers this experimental discovery an extraordinary achievement. Scientists turned the signal they detected into radio waves, and so they could listen to the sound of two black holes crashing into each other.
Here is Washington correspondent Doina Saiciuc, speaking shortly after the announcement: “The discovery of gravitational waves opens a new door into studying the Universe. It is like turning from silent movies to talkies, since these waves are the very sound of the Universe. Astrophysicist Szabolcs Marka, from Columbia University in New York, one of the members of the team that made the discovery, said that so far we only looked up at the sky, but couldn’t listen to its music. He also said that the skies would never be the same. On 14 September 2015, 5:51 on the US East Coast, the LIGO detectors – Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington state, measured the waves caused in the space-time continuum, gravitational waves, which reached Earth from a cataclysmic event that happened somewhere far in the Universe. Decades of research by thousands of scientists across the world, with support from LIGO and the US National Science Foundation culminated in this historic discovery.”
In Bucharest, Alexandru Mironov recalled that Einstein said there would be a moment when the evolution of physics would allow for gravitational waves to be perceived: “I believe that we can talk about a new giant leap made by this biped with a wide perspective that is Homo Sapiens. All of a sudden we have made a huge step forward in knowing the world. The brain is capable of understanding the machinery of the Universe ticks. Gravitational waves are the key of keys for what is happening in the Universe.”
Mironov has added that we are waiting for the moment when engineers step up to the challenge behind the physicists, and, similarly with quantum mechanics, they make use of discoveries around gravitational waves in order to build a gravitational telescope, for instance, capable of reading what happens with matter and energy in the Cosmos, in the span of 13.8 billion light years that is the Universe.