Gravitational waves explained at OSU

COLUMBUS (WCMH)—Little is known about the nature of black holes and dark matter, invisible and incredibly distant.

Yet a breakthrough discovery recently shed light on the nature of an area of space that has a gravitational field so immense that no form of radiation or matter can leave its environs.

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) first detected sound waves emanating from a violent astrophysical event in September 2015. The ripples were triggered by the massive collision of two black holes about 1.3 billion years ago.

Dr. Laura Cadonati, a Georgia Tech physicist, spoke today at the Ohio Union on the campus of The Ohio State University, part of the College of Arts and Sciences “Science Sundays” lecture series, a free program open to the general public. Cadonati said, “Gravitational waves are going to be a new way of understanding and explaining the universe,” which Albert Einstein had predicted in 1916.

LIGO is based in two large observatories: one in Livingston, Louisiana, and the other near Richland, Washington. The tracking of gravitational waves required a highly sensitive billion-dollar instrument using laser beams, because the signals are so faint. Black holes and collapsing stars open a window into our understanding of the university, and confirm Einstein’s theory of relativity, based on gravity.

Ohio State University director of the Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP), Dr. John Beacom, explained, “The discovery is very significant because it’s the first time it allows us to see those black holes directly.”

Gravitational waves can stretch and squeeze you like silly putty, but pass over Earth without notice because the the amount is so small. The waves travel through a vacuum and confirm the elastic nature of space-time that behaves more like a trampoline than a fixed stage, said Paul Sutter, chief scientist at COSI.

This major discovery provides astrophysicists with a new way to probe the universe that goes beyond sight, said Cadonati, using sound to explore the outer dimensions of space.



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