LIGO team behind gravitational-wave discovery awarded Nobel Prize

Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.   

  Ken Richardson

Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Ken Richardson

The LIGO team first detected the waves on September 14, 2015, as they observed the merging of two black holes 1.3 billion light years away.

LIGO India is a joint scientific collaboration between LIGO laboratories of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the U.S., and three leading Indian institutions, namely, the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, Institute for Plasma Research (IPR), Gandhinagar, and Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT), Indore. But in the mid-1970s, Weiss had already analyzed possible sources of background noise that would disturb measurements. More on that later....

Barish shared the award with Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology for their discoveries in faint ripples flying through the universe called gravitational waves. LSU says faculty, staff and researchers are major contributors to the global LIGO Science Collaboration. Over the next decade, Barish "transformed LIGO from a limited MIT/Caltech endeavour to a major worldwide, gravitational-wave project", Nobel Prize committee wrote. The project took more than 40 years.

What they did: Ok, let's talk about these interferometers.

Other Nobel Prizes will be awarded over the next few days - chemistry on Wednesday, literature on Thursday, peace on Friday and economics on October 9.

Each detector consisted of two 4-km long tunnels at right angles. A laser beam is split in two, and each beam is sent down one tunnel and reflected back, where they are recombined.

The Ligo detectors are situated 1,865 milesapart in Livingston, Louisiana and Hanford, Washington.

Previously described as opening a new window into the universe, the detection of gravitational waves in 2015 confirmed a century-old theory predicted by Albert Einstein, and now allows us to observe the universe's most violent events as ripples in spacetime. "The discovery of black-hole mergers and the detection of gravitational waves never would have happened without these creative scientists". First anticipated by Albert Einstein nearly a century ago, three American scientists have finally vindicated him nearly one hundred years on.

Just last month the team announced they'd added a third leg to the continent-wide observatory: the Italian-based Virgo helped triangulate an observation of a gravitational wave along with LIGO.

The disruption behind such a shift would need to be enormous, given it is creating waves that move at the speed of light and distort the physical makeup of the universe. They told the world previous year that they had spotted gravitational waves travelling through the universe, which were caused by two massive black holes circling around each other before eventually colliding.

The fourth gravitational wave, observed on August 14, 2017, was made using two LIGO detectors in the United States -loacated in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington - and the Virgo detector in Italy.

Those spotted so far have come from very distant black holes - extraordinarily dense objects whose existence was also predicted by Einstein - that smashed together to form a single, larger black hole.

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