US scientists announced on Thursday that they had detected, heard, and measured gravitational waves, a landmark scientific discovery that is as important as the discovery of the Higgs boson in furthering our understanding of the universe.
Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was the first work to imagine the existence of these waves, but Thursday’s experiments were the first time that those theories were proved to be right.
That’s all fine and well; but what does this actually mean?
Gravitational waves: What’s the fuss about?
What are they?
Gravitational waves are faint ripples in the fabric of space-time first predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916 but never discovered because the equipment to detect them did not exist.
How are they created?
They created by massive movements in the universe, such as two black holes colliding, massive stars exploding, or the birth of the Universe some 13.8 billion years ago.
The signal that the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) is expected to announce on Thursday was produced by two merging black holes.
What do they do?
Since gravitational waves are not absorbed or reflected by matter, they carry information on the motion of objects in the universe. This help understand the creation of the universe and its history.
What is LIGO?
LIGO a system of two identical detectors -- in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington -- built by scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and California Institute of Technology to detect incredibly tiny vibrations from passing gravitational waves. The twin detectors cost US $ 620 million.
What is India’s role?
Sixty Indian scientists from nine Indian institutes are part LIGO Scientific Collaboration that is involved in research and analysis of data generated from the detector.