A major scientific discovery was unveiled this morning at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory in Livingston Parish that is expected to have profound implications on how we understand the universe.
Scientists at the LIGO facility say that ripples in the fabric of spacetime, called gravitational waves, have been observed for the first time in history. The discovery confirms a major prediction in Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity.
The gravitational waves were detected on Sept. 14, 2015, at 4:51 a.m. by both of the LIGO detectors, one of which is in Livingston and the other in Hanford, Washington.
“This detection is the beginning of a new era. The field of gravitational wave astronomy is now a reality,” says Gabriela González, LSU professor of physics and astronomy, in a prepared statement.
Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.
On Sept. 14, the LIGO instrument in Livingston, followed 7 milliseconds later by the instrument in Hanford, detected a gravitational wave signal from colliding black holes. The near simultaneous detection was necessary to confirm that the event was real, and indicated based on the relative time of arrival of the signals traveling at the speed of light, that the source was located in the southern hemisphere sky.
The discovery has been accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters. The LIGO observatories are funded by the National Science Foundation, or NSF, and were conceived, built and are operated by Caltech and MIT.
The LIGO Livingston observatory is located on LSU property, and LSU faculty, students and research staff are major contributors to the 15-nation international LIGO Science Collaboration, or LSC. More than 1,000 scientists from universities around the U.S. and 14 other countries conduct LIGO research as members of the LSC. More than 90 universities and research institutes in the LSC develop detector technology and analyze data; about 250 students are strong contributing members of the collaboration.
LSU has more details on this morning’s announcement and its impact on the scientific community.