Science Articles

LIGO and Virgo spot spacetime ripples in their first joint detection

The recent collision of neutron stars showed light first and a few minutes after showed gravitational waves.

LIGO and Virgo spot spacetime ripples in their first joint detection

In 2016, a major revelation was made about the presence of gravitational waves. These waves are nothing but ripples seen in spacetime from collision of two neutron stars. However, back then only two detectors were used to make the observation. This time, in 2017, there were three detectors used and that has improved the accuracy many times. The source of the ripples can be confirmed beyond doubt.

So which were the three detectors used? One was the Advanced Virgo placed at Italy. Second one was LIGO placed Louisiana. Last one was also a LIGO detector and it was placed at Washington. In other words, one observation was made from Europe and two were simultaneously captured from US. Their observations were confirmed by 70 other space observatories.

SIGNIFICANCE

This discovery may sound usual to a layman. But it had a lot of significance. The collision of neutron stars have paved path to more confirmations and discoveries:

  • Einstein’s theory of relativity has few assumption which are now confirmed
  • The collision of the neutron stars usually show up light. But this time, they went a step ahead to show waves too. Such a cosmic event is very rare and will lead to many other studies
  • There wasn’t just gravitational waves. Days after the event was over, there were X rays, ultra violet ray, optical ray, infrared rays and even radio rays.
  • The mystery surrounding the origin of Gold and silver is finally solved. Those precious metals have one common sources – our stars. Their collision can be the reason why those heavy metals are formed.

All this and much more has been observed and noted. It has been circulated in the journal called physical review letters. Both LIGO and Virgo findings have been taken into consideration for making conclusions.

HOW DID IT WORK?

The observatories had long tunnels. The tunnels were in a L shape. The joining point is where the light beam splits. When light beams go out of the tunnel, they must come back in the same direction, thanks to a mirror. If there is no gravitational wave the light will come back to the point of the split. In case there is a wave, the beams may come back but not at the same time. It will create unpredictable changes to the light beam. This phenomenon happened and confirmed the existence of gravitational waves.

CONCLUSION

A cosmic event like this rarely happens. But when it does, it is an opportunity to uncover many secrets of our universe. The recent collision of neutron stars showed light first and a few minutes after showed gravitational waves.