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Posted at: Feb 13, 2016, 1:29 AM; last updated: Feb 13, 2016, 1:18 AM (IST)

Ripples in space-time may enable us to hear stars

Detecting waves: Like an elephant feeling weight of fly

  • How can a common man comprehend the nano impact of gravitational waves detected in the landmark astrophysics discovery of the century?
  • Eminent astrophysicist Jayant Narlikar came out with an analogy for the benefit of the layman to explain the complexity involved in detecting the gravitational wave that emanated at a distance of 1.3 billion light years from the earth
  • “Imagine a fly sitting on an elephant. The weight of fly is added to his body, but the elephant will not feel it. What LIGO (the detector used in the discovery) detected was much smaller than the perceived impact of the fly sitting on the elephant,” Narlikar said

Detecting waves: Like an elephant feeling weight of fly

  • How can a common man comprehend the nano impact of gravitational waves detected in the landmark astrophysics discovery of the century?
  • Eminent astrophysicist Jayant Narlikar came out with an analogy for the benefit of the layman to explain the complexity involved in detecting the gravitational wave that emanated at a distance of 1.3 billion light years from the earth
  • “Imagine a fly sitting on an elephant. The weight of fly is added to his body, but the elephant will not feel it. What LIGO (the detector used in the discovery) detected was much smaller than the perceived impact of the fly sitting on the elephant,” Narlikar said
Ripples in space-time may enable us to hear stars
A simulation shows how sun and Earth warp space and time.

Boston, February 12

The landmark discovery of the first direct evidence of gravitational waves or ripples in space-time, which Albert Einstein predicted a century ago, will enable mankind to listen to the stars, and not just see them, scientists say.

In a breakthrough announcement, scientists from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) said that they have finally detected the elusive gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time. Studying gravitational waves will push Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity—which originally predicted their existence almost exactly a century ago—to its limits, while revolutionising our understanding of the most violent events in the universe, according to researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research (MKI).

The LIGO project started its first observing run in 2002. Following major upgrades in 2010, LIGO re-opened as “Advanced LIGO” in September 2015 and detected its first gravitational waves within days.

An analysis of the waves suggests they originated from a system of two black holes, each with the mass of about 30 Suns, which gravitationally drew closer to each other. The dense objects whipped up to nearly the speed of light before colliding, sending out a stupendous release of gravitational wave energy that eventually reached the Earth, 1.5 bn light years away. 

As the gravitational waves warped space-time within LIGO's gargantuan twin detectors, its exquisitely sensitive instruments registered vibrations on the order of thousands of the diameter of a proton.

The frequency of these waves that LIGO is designed to catch are actually in the audible range for humans. Accordingly, the signal LIGO received of the black hole merger was played on speakers for eager scientists. — PTI

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