For the second time in the history of mankind, researchers have detected the presence of gravitational waves. The first discovery was made back in February this year when scientists working at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) confirmed the presence of Albert Einstien’s gravitational waves. LIGO was upgraded last year and it received highly sensitive instruments that enabled researchers to record the waves generated by the collision of two black holes.
Similar to first discovery, the second signal was also detected from a binary black hole system. Scientists say that after revolving around each other in decreasing orbits for millions of years, these black holes collided and submerged into each other generating gravitational waves nearly billion years ago.
The total mass of the system is roughly around 22 times the mass of our Sun which is nearly thrice smaller than the first detection. Sudden collision of black holes disrupts the space-time web and violently stretches and squeezes the web generating gravitational waves.
One of the greatest scientists of all time, Albert Einstein talked about gravitational waves nearly 100 years ago (2016) when he gave the general theory of relativity. Many scientists have opposed his theory as there was no evidence to prove it. However, the LIGO scientists have confirmed it after a century and have proved that the genius was right and way ahead of his time.
The find has also confirmed the existence of black holes that have highest gravitational pull such that even light cannot escape its gravity. Confirmation of black holes also raises many questions like — were they formed in the Big Bang or through the collapse of matter at a later date? Did they form from a pair of supermassive stars or did they join together by chance once the stars had become black holes? Are they related to the formation of the supermassive black holes that appear to exist in the cores of nearly all galaxies? And what are the implications for the collapse of matter into stars and galaxies and the formation of structure in the universe?
“This was a scientific moon shot. And we did it – we landed on the moon,” said LIGO laboratory executive director Davit Reitze.
LIGO scientists are giving us a new view of the universe and have opened gates for an entirely new era of astronomy. “As you can imagine, for most of us, these detections have had a very strong impact on our lives, because we’d been waiting for this for a very long time. It’s been an incredible experience, the last few months.” Lisa Barsotti, principal research scientist at MIT and member of LIGO team.
LIGO scientists have received $3 million Special Breakthrough Award for the remarkable feat. The prize money will be shared between all the 1012 scientists and the LIGO lab itself. $1 million will go to three conceives of LIGO – Kip Thorne, Ray Weiss and Ron Drever – while remaining $2 million will be shared by 1,012 scientists who helped discover the gravitational waves (just under Rs.1.32 lakh each). Of 1012 scientists, 27 were from Indian origin.
Soon after the discovery, PM Modi announced that LIGO will be opened in India and scientists have already started working on the project LIGO India. The lab will become operational within seven years enabling scientists to conduct their research.