February 11, 2016
DALLAS (SMU) – In a discovery described by Sciencenews.org as momentous as “Galileo turning his telescope to the sky,” scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana, have discovered gravitational waves – a phenomenon first predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years ago.
“The detection of gravitational waves brings to an end the testing of all the great predictions of Einstein’s theory of general relativity,” said SMU Physics Professor Steve Sekula. “It ushers in an entirely new era of astronomy where, instead of looking at light from distance objects, we can use space and time itself to measure across the cosmos at huge distances cataclysmic events like collapsing black holes or orbiting neutron stars.
The discovered waves were created by the merger of a binary black hole system more than 1.3 billion light-years away – which also served as the first confirmation that binary black holes exist in the universe.
“I always wonder, when will Einstein be wrong? But I’m happy he got this one right,” Sekula says. “What LIGO has shown today is not only do they have very definitive evidence they’ve seen waves from a merger of two black holes, they’ve done astronomy with it already. The next era of astronomy is here right now.”
Sekula is available to discuss the discovery with media throughout the day. SMU Physics Professor Ryszard Stroynowski also is available to discuss the discovery.
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