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Scientists Observe Gravitational Waves For The First Time, Confirming Einstein's Theory

11 February 2016, 10:54 am EST By Mark Lelinwalla Tech Times
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The gravitational waves were discovered Sept. 14, 2015, by twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors.  ( NASA )

Albert Einstein was dead on, peering into the future with his 1915 general theory of relativity.

As part of the National Science Foundation's major live-stream and accompanying press release statement this morning, it was announced that scientists have observed ripples in spacetime fabric called gravitational waves for the first time ever. The waves came to Earth from a cataclysmic event in the far universe, thus confirming Einstein's theory, as reported by the NSF.

According to the NSF, the gravitational waves were detected on Sept. 14, 2015, by twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, based in Livingston, La., and Hanford, Wash. LIGO scientists estimate that the black holes for this event were an estimated 29 and 36 times the mass of the sun, figuring that the event occurred 1.3 billion years ago.

(Photo : National Science Foundation The LIGO detector in Hanford, Wash.)

What's key about this discovery is the NSF says gravitational waves carry information about the nature of gravity that can't be gathered from anywhere else. The detected gravitational waves last September were generated during the final fraction of a second amidst the merger of two black holes, according to physicists and the NSF.

"Our observation of gravitational waves accomplishes an ambitious goal set out over five decades ago to directly detect this elusive phenomenon and better understand the universe, and, fittingly, fulfills Einstein's legacy on the 100th anniversary of his general theory of relativity," Caltech's David H. Reitze, executive director of the LIGO Laboratory, said as part of the NSF's press release on Thursday's amazing announcement.

Added Gabriela González, professor of physics and astronomy at Louisiana State University: "This detection is the beginning of a new era: The field of gravitational wave astronomy is now a reality."

The windows of possibility that the confirmation of gravitational waves opens up is massive.

(Photo : NASA)

"With this discovery, we humans are embarking on a marvelous new quest: the quest to explore the warped side of the universe — objects and phenomena that are made from warped spacetime," Caltech's Kip Thorne told the NSF. "Colliding black holes and gravitational waves are our first beautiful examples."

Needless to say, scientists aren't in the least bit surprised that Einstein was right with his prediction, either.

"The description of this observation is beautifully described in the Einstein theory of general relativity formulated 100 years ago and comprises the first test of the theory in strong gravitation," Rainer Weiss, MIT professor of physics, added. "It would have been wonderful to watch Einstein's face had we been able to tell him."

The full study by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration will be published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

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