Gravitational waves caused by colliding black holes A team of US scientists announced today that they have detected gravitational waves. These are the ripples in “space-time” that were predicted a century ago by the great German scientist Albert Einstein (1879–1955) in his General Theory of Relativity. Clear signals from the waves have been picked up by LIGO, or the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. The team used detectors in Washington and Louisiana to spot passing gravitational waves produced, they believe, by the collision of two black holes.
What are gravitational waves? They are like the ripples on a pond created when a pebble is thrown into it. The pond is made not of water, but space (or, strictly speaking, what Einstein called space-time). If, instead of a pebble, something really massive is thrown into that “pond”—such as two black holes colliding—the resulting ripples would spread out across the Universe. These ripples—gravitational waves—would stretch and squeeze space, and everything within it, as they went.
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