What about the direction of the gravitational waves
6 things you need to know about gravitational waves
What are gravitational waves?
Imagine a tennis ball on a trampoline. He would lie there - hardly move. Now we put a small child on the trampoline. The trampoline now has a dent at this point.
What happens now The tennis ball will slowly move towards the dent the child is making. It will slowly roll in its direction. The closer the child sits to the tennis ball, the further it rolls in the direction of the dent. He is attracted to her.
The greater the mass of a moving body, the stronger its attraction.
That is the idea of gravitation - this is also how you can imagine gravitational waves in space.
Gravitational waves are created when masses are accelerated - for example when stars explode at the end of their lifespan, during dramatic events in space - such as the Big Bang - or when two black holes merge. The gravitational waves compress and stretch space. They influence the structure of spacetime.
The physicist Albert Einstein described gravitational waves 100 years ago with his theory of relativity.
Gravitational waves spread completely unhindered in the cosmos. No matter what gets in their way. This is what distinguishes them from light or sound waves. Gravitational waves are a distortion of geometry, of space itself.
Ever since the theory was set up, researchers have been trying to track down the waves. Only now has the proof of their existence been provided for the first time.
Why is this such a big deal?
Einstein described how space-time is pushed and pulled by gravitational waves - how it distorts and how objects - such as neutron stars and black holes - move in it.
However, until now, no technology existed that would allow scientists to measure such a phenomenon.
To give you a rough idea of the scientific significance of this discovery, the researchers who have proven the existence of gravitational waves have great chances of receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Why wasn't that recognized earlier?
Many scientists have tried to detect gravitational waves, but have never been successful. The previous search has been characterized more by setbacks and false reports than successes. The reason? Gravitational waves are very, very difficult to find and measure.
An extremely sensitive detector is required to measure gravitational waves. Because as soon as the waves reach the earth, they only have an extremely small amplitude - a thousand times smaller than an atomic nucleus.
The LIGO observatories in Livingston, Louisiana (see photo) and Hanford, Washington, were upgraded in 2015
How do the scientists at LIGO research the waves?
The US LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) observatory was founded in 1992. Here, too, the first physical attempts to find waves failed. However, the latest technology is four times more sensitive than previous ones.
The LIGO consists of two highly sensitive observation posts about 3000 kilometers apart - one in Livingston, Louisiana one in Hanford, Washington.
Both observatories have two identical, four-kilometer, L-shaped tunnels with mirrors. With the help of laser beams that the researchers send back and forth between the stations, they can measure tiny distortions that are noticeable in delays in the rearview mirror - this is a sign of gravitational waves.
The two different locations allow scientists to compare clues about the timing and direction of the waves.
The certainty of the existence of gravitational waves - a goal in life for many scientists
Is the LIGO observatory the only one looking for evidence of gravitational waves?
No. Worldwide there are more than 70 organizations trying to detect signals from gravitational waves.
German scientists are also involved in the LIGO project in the USA. They developed a smaller wave detector.
The European Space Agency (ESA) recently sent a satellite into space that could possibly help measure tiny fluctuations in space.
What do we get if the evidence exists?
If scientists have clarity that gravitational waves actually exist, it could completely change our understanding of the universe.
Scientists would then be able to study the impact of the greatest incidents in history - like the Big Bang.
We could look into the farthest corners of space. For example, waves created by the Big Bang could give us new insights into how the universe was formed.
It is also the final confirmation of the most unreal parts of Einstein's theory.
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