The detection of gravitational waves confirmed a major prediction of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, winning the team behind it the Nobel Prize for Physics 2017. The Prize was awarded to Professors Kip Thorne, Barry Barish and Rainer Weiss, key figures in detecting the long-theorised ripples in space-time, ‘for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves’.
The detection was a truly international effort, and was built on crucial technology advances 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 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.