One hundred years after Einstein predicted them, scientists have finally detected gravitational waves – and this has been hailed as the scientific breakthrough of the century. They used the most sensitive scientific instruments ever built to detect them, called ‘twin Advanced LIGO interferometers’. This new field of gravitational-wave astronomy is already revealing remarkable new insights about our universe, confirming that black holes not only exist, but that they can collide and merge together, releasing vast amounts of gravitational-wave energy.
The LIGO detections are just the beginning. They form a new chapter of an exciting new scientific story that will unfold over the coming decades, challenging and inspiring the next generation of physicists and astronomers. The achievements of this last year have opened a completely new window on the universe, and gravitational-wave astronomy has a very exciting future. UK scientists have played a leading role in this new field, and have pioneered some remarkable technological innovations.
A new and improved network of ground-based detectors is now being developed that will fully open up the field of gravitational-wave astronomy. It will help us study black holes, stellar astrophysics and cosmology, and for testing fundamental physics and general relativity. And the exciting results reported by the LISA Pathfinder (LPF) mission have given the green light to a future space-borne gravitational wave mission.
Find out more at Listen2theUniverse, LIGO Scientific Collaboration and LISA.
Presented by: Imperial College London, University of Glasgow, University of Birmingham, Cardiff University, University of the West of Scotland, University of Southampton, University of Sheffield, AEI Hannover and AEI Potsdam-Golm.
Hands-on at the exhibit
- Come and explore the remarkable technology underpinning these detectors, capable of measuring tiny displacements equivalent to a million millionth the width of a human hair!
- Find out how a laser interferometer works, and how the LIGO interferometers achieve their remarkable sensitivity using state-of-the-art technology
- Become a ‘black hole hunter’ and listen to the sounds of spacetime, using our interactive computer games
- Explore how gravity warps the fabric of spacetime and how black hole collisions send ripples across the cosmos