Gravitational wave detection announced a year ago today

11 February 2017

Sun and Earth warp space-time

How the Sun and Earth warp space-time
(Credit: T. Pyle/Caltech/MIT/LIGO Laboratory)

This time last year the physics community – and the world – was holding its breath. Decades of work came to fruition as the announcement of the first direct detection of gravitational waves was made by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO): two identical facilities in Louisiana and Washington State. A year on and gravitational waves are firmly back in the spotlight with a science session on the topic planned at the world’s largest global science gathering next week, the AAAS.

The detection of gravitational waves confirmed a major prediction of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. It was built on crucial technology advances within the field that wouldn’t have been possible without the skill of UK scientists and engineers.

The UK has been involved in gravitational wave research for over four decades, as key partners in a global collaboration led by the US. With the help of funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), UK scientists and engineers have pioneered key aspects of the technology behind gravitational-wave detection, and played a leading role in analysis of the data that allowed scientists to identify the source of gravitational waves.

Gravitational waves carry unique information about the most energetic phenomena in our Universe. Their detection has given us a new window onto the Universe, and further study of gravitational waves could provide important insights into the evolution of stars, supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, neutron stars and black holes.

Find out more about the UK’s contribution to this ground-breaking field of research, or if you are in Boston next week at AAAS, join the session ‘Opening a New Ear to the Universe with Gravitational Waves’.

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000