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Ask Ethan: Are Gravitational Waves Themselves Affected By Gravity?

22 Dec 2018, 15:01 UTC
Ask Ethan: Are Gravitational Waves Themselves Affected By Gravity?
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Any distant gravitational source can emit gravitational waves and send out a signal that deforms the fabric of space, which manifests as gravitational attraction. But this deformation only travels at the speed of light; distant objects must wait a long time before feeling that force. (EUROPEAN GRAVITATIONAL OBSERVATORY, LIONEL BRET/EUROLIOS)When you emit gravitational waves, they have to pass through the Universe. But do they gravitate, too?When you travel through the Universe, it isn’t just a free ride through empty space. Although you might not think about it very often, there are forces arising from the presence of everything else, and those forces play a major role. The electric charges, the nuclear forces, and the gravitational distortion of spacetime itself — caused by all the masses and forms of energy present within the visible Universe — affect your motion. But what if you weren’t made of atoms; what if, instead, you were a gravitational wave? Would you still experience those forces in the same way? That’s the question of Patreon supporter Darren Redfern, who asks:Are gravitational waves themselves subject to gravity? That is, if a gravitational wave were to pass by a galaxy cluster, would its form get distorted (even though ...

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