Thursday, February 11, 2016

Long, Long ago, in a galaxy far away .....

A billion years ago, and a billion light-years away, two black holes, each thirty times the mass of our sun, collided and merged.

This cataclysm generated gravity waves strong enough to travel all that way through the Universe, and last September, those waves reached the earth.

They were detected by the Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and after scientists there had analysed and confirmed that they really had detected gravitational waves, they announced at a press conference today that the gravity waves predicted by Einstein a century ago do indeed exist.

This is a huge moment in science.

When I was a boy I remember by parents waking myself and my brother in the middle of the night to see the first pictures which were just being broadcast of the Apollo 11 astronauts walking on the moon. They thought the first ever pictures of humans walking on another world was a sufficiently special event that we should all see it.

It struck me while I was listening to the report of the press conference at which it was announced that humans had, in the same achievement, detected gravity waves for the first time, obtained the first direct evidence of a black hole, and measured an event which had happened a billion light years away and as many years ago, that this was an epochal event of as much significance as the Apollo 11 mission, if not more. Congratulations to all the many people who have worked for years to make this happen. It is the start of something which will transform our knowledge of the Universe in ways we can barely imagine. 

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