Biggest Physics Success Story 2016: LIGO Detects Gravitational Waves

First Posted: Dec 26, 2016 03:20 AM EST

This year has been full of breakthrough discoveries and one of the biggest physics success stories ever is when scientists at Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) have detected gravitational waves from merging black holes.

It was named Science's breakthrough of 2016.This new discovery came 100 years after scientist Albert Einstein predicted the general theory of relativity.

The scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of space and time called gravitational waves, which could further shed light on the makeup and mysteries of the universe.

The Discovery

It was on Sep. 14, 2015, at 5:51 a.m. EST when both of the twin LIGO detectors captured gravitational waves in Livingston, Louisiana and Hanford, Washington in the United States. The gravitational waves came from two black holes that spiraled into each other 1.3 billion lightyears away.

"Our observation of gravitational waves accomplishes an ambitious goal set out over 5 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," David H. Reitze, executive director of the LIGO Laboratory, said in a press release by Caltech.

Einstein's Theory Of Relativity

In 1915, Einstein explained that gravity emerges because massive bodies warp space and time, causing free-falling objects to follow curved paths like the elliptical orbit of a planet around the Sun. He said that a barbell-shaped distribution of mass whirling end-to-end should radiate ripples in space-time that zip along at light speed, called gravitational waves.

Since then, the theory has been questioned and many scientists asked if gravitational waves really do exist, until the discovery earlier this year. Now, physicists are eagerly anticipating what may come next since the discovery of gravitational waves could create a new way to look into the cosmos.

Along with the detection of gravitational waves, other breakthrough discoveries named by Science Magazine are human embryo culture, portable DNA sequencers, AI beats Go champ and worn-out cells and aging.

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