Scientists announced yesterday the long-awaited discovery of gravitational waves. The waves were detected on September 14, 2015 by the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO. They were produced by the collision of two black holes, which sent ripples through space-time about 1.3 billion years ago.
You can read the full paper here.
What Does This Mean?
“Four hundred years ago, Galileo turned a telescope to the sky and opened the era of modern observational astronomy. I think we’re doing something equally important here today. I think we’re opening a window on the universe – the window of gravitational wave astronomy.” – David Reitze
Scientists have been on the hunt for gravitational waves for decades, and this discovery, according to many, is a breakthrough that will likely usher in a new era of astronomy.
As David Reitze, the executive director of LIGO, outlined during his official announcement, this is the first detection of gravitational waves, the first proof of the existence of binary black holes, and yet another confirmation of Einstein’s General Relativity.
Physicist Neil Turok tells us why this is important: “Just think of radio waves,” he said, “When radio waves were discovered we learned to communicate with them. Mobile communication is entirely reliant on radio waves. For astronomy, radio observations have probably told us more than anything else about the structure of the universe. Now we have gravitational waves we are going to have a whole new picture of the universe, of the stuff that doesn’t emit light – dark matter, black holes.”
What Do Colliding Black Holes Sound Like?
But all of this raises an even more important question – what do two colliding black holes sound like? In the above video, you can hear the sounds of the black hole collision as it sent ripples through time and space. Or, more specifically, what you can hear after converting the gravitational waves detected by LIGO into sound waves.