Scientists have detected the first gravitational wave signals, confirming Einstein’s last unproven theory. This is one of the biggest scientific discoveries in years. To give you some perspective, Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves was first introduced in his Theory of General Relativity in 1918-about a century ago. Though the existence of gravitational waves is generally accepted within the scientific community, they’re the last part of Einstein’s theory that had not been proven, until now.
Scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, announced last Thursday they picked up the wave signals in September of last year. They said the signal was coming from two distant black holes that merged about 1.3 billion years ago. When the black holes merged after spinning around one another several times per second, they created a massive explosion, therefore generating huge gravitational waves.
In case you don’t remember from your high school science class, gravitational waves are ripples in space-time, a four-dimension theory in which time and space combine in one continuum. When an object moves throughout the Universe, it creates outward moving space-time ripples, like an object moving through water.
Gravitational waves are generally pretty weak, which is why it has been hard for scientists to measure and conclude their existence. In fact, several scientists have been wrong about gravitational waves in the past. Most recently, in 2014, a team with a BICEP2 telescope near the South Pole claimed they had evidence of gravitational waves. The researchers said they had located the signals while studying the early origins of the Universe. Their results were found to be from cosmic dust, not gravitational waves.
Though the scientists at LIGO have brought forward groundbreaking news, other scientists will have to examine the data before it can be officially deemed accurate. Still, this is the closest the scientific community has come to proving Einstein’s theory and is worth celebrating.