Science

Gravitational waves discovered?

10 Feb 2016 | Written by Gaurav ; Edited by Achin Garg

Scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) have scheduled a press conference to announce the possible discovery of gravitational waves

The detection of gravitational waves would open a new window on the universe and its most violent phenomena.

The conference is scheduled for 11 February for worldwide broadcast.

In context: Understanding gravitational waves

Introduction What are gravitational waves?

Gravitational waves are disturbances in the fabric of space-time.

If you drag your hand through still water, ripples are produced and waves follow in the path of your hand and propagate outward through the pool.

According to Albert Einstein, the same thing happens when heavy objects move through space-time.

He first proposed this theoretical concept 100 years ago in 1916.

How does space ripple?

A good way of understanding gravitational waves is to take a taut rubber sheet and place a heavy object on it. That object will cause the sheet to sag around it. If you place a smaller object near the first one, it will fall toward the larger object (gravity).
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Are space and time related?

Space timeAre space and time related?

Space consists of three dimensions that we know along the X,Y and Z axis.

Einstein included time as a fourth dimension, introducing 'space time', and theorized that objects moving through space experience time differently than ones that are static.

Scientists proved this by sending synchronized atomic clocks into space attached to space craft. They returned, slightly behind their synchronized counterparts on Earth.

Detection How are gravitational waves detected?

There are several experiments underway to detect gravitational waves; however the front runner is the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) operated by Caltech and MIT.

The device splits a single laser beam into two and sends both beams shooting off perpendicularly to each other.

A passing gravitational wave changes the distance between each beam, and thus scientists can observe if such waves exist.

Effects How do gravitational waves affect us?

Gravitational waves cannot affect us as humans directly. However, they contribute immensely to understanding the universe.

Imagine the universe to be a massive grid on a sheet, weighed down at various points by stars and planets.

Whenever a cataclysmic event occurs, like the collapse of a star, ripples are sent out across the grid, just like dropping a pebble into a still pond.

Implications How does understanding gravitational waves help?

The ripples or gravitational waves are formed whenever any large scale event occurs in the universe, including when events like the 'Big Bang' responsible for the creation of the universe, occured.

Understanding the waves, gives insight into how the universe is expanding, and the proximity of catacalysmic events to earth.

It also helps understand the age of the universe and its future trajectory.

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10 Feb 2016Gravitational waves discovered?

12 Feb 2016100 years after prediction, gravitational waves detected

In a landmark discovery which has left the scientific community world-over ecstatic, scientists have finally announced that they have not just seen but also heard the gravitational waves.

The gravitational waves, predicted by Einstein a century back, were detected by scientists in Sept'14 and it was finally announced yesterday after validation.

The waves open a new window to observe and listen to the universe.

A LIGO observatory for India

A LIGO observatory is being planned in India to help trace the exact route of gravitational waves. It will be built through a collaboration of research institutes. The government has already offered Rs.1200 crore for this purpose.

17 Feb 2016Union Cabinet approves Indian gravitational wave observatory

The Union Cabinet approved a project proposal by the Department of Atomic Energy and the Department of Science & Technology.

It aims to build a state-of-the-art observatory in India to investigate gravitational waves in collaboration with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) in the US.

The LIGO-India project will see the construction of an 8 km-long beam tube at ultra-high vacuum on levelled terrain.

8 Jun 2016Scientists say gravitational waves experiment successful

Scientists stated that the mission to demonstrate technologies needed to detect gravitational waves in space was successful.

The Lisa Pathfinder satellite, which was sent into orbit to test the laser measurement system that would be used on a future observatory, cleared all performance tests as soon as the equipment was switched on.

Scientists said this was a huge step forward in understanding gravitational waves.