Gravitational waves

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.

Video

The search for Gravitational Waves
(Credit: STFC)

Articles on gravitational waves

Infographics

Black holes
Black holes

Where did the signal for the first direct detection of gravitational waves come from?

Gravitational waves: prediction vs detection
Prediction vs detection

Einstein predicted that gravitational waves would create a very distinctive signal. How does that compare to what LIGO detected?

Timeline
Timeline

Einstein first proposed the existence of gravitational waves over 100 years ago. How did we get from there to the historic direct detection in 2016 - and what's coming next?

LIGO
LIGO

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), are designed to 'listen' for gravitational energy.

LISA
LISA

With the LISA and LISA pathfinder missions, the search for gravitational waves is moving to space.

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