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Everything you need to know about gravitational waves

10 Feb 2016, 13:36 UTC
Everything you need to know about gravitational waves
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Last year in September, upgrades of the gravitational wave interferometer LIGO were completed. The experiment – now named advanced LIGO – searches for gravitational waves emitted in the merger of two black holes. Such a merger signal should fall straight into advanced LIGOs reach.Estimated gravitational wave spectrum. [Image Source]It was thus expected that the experiment either sees something immediately, or we’ve gotten something terribly wrong. And indeed, rumors about a positive detection started to appear almost immediately after the upgrade. But it wasn’t until this week that the LIGO collaboration announced several press-conferences in the USA and Europe, scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday Feb 11, at 3:30pm GMT. So something big is going to hit the headlines tomorrow, and here are the essentials that you need to know.Gravitational waves are periodic distortions of space-time. They alter distance ratios for orthogonal directions. An interferometer works by using lasers to measure and compare orthogonal distances very precisely, thus it picks up even the tiniest space-time deformations.Moving masses produce gravitational waves much like moving charges create electromagnetic waves. The most relevant differences between the two cases are Electromagnetic waves travel in space-time, whereas gravitational waves are a disturbance of space-time itself. Electromagnetic waves have ...

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