This Thursday, a group of researchers declared that they had detected a phenomenon called gravitational waves for the first time ever. This finding provides scientists a new way to study our universe. Learn more about this finding here and below are the 5 mind-blowing facts about gravitational waves:
1. Researchers suspect that two merging black holes produce more energy in the form of gravitational waves in the last few minutes before they crash into each other than a single star emits over billions of years.
An Artist's perception of gravitational waves in space. Image Credit: LLacertae on Flickr
2. Gravitational waves contract and inflate the fabric of space-time, but by only a very tiny amount. The LIGO instruments are aimed to sense a distortion fabric of space-time that is 1 million times smaller than the width of a hydrogen atom.
3. And it's not only black holes that release gravitational waves — it's any two bodies in orbit. This means that the sun and Earth release them, too. But those waves transport 100 billion times less energy than two colliding black holes, making it impossible to sense with our current technology.
4. Researchers now also estimate that two black holes merge someplace in the cosmos once every 15 minutes. And that's a lot of gravitational waves we can now identify.
5. Before the first discovery of gravitational waves, we simply had no way of knowing if black holes could even merge. So this finding doesn't just approves Einstein's prediction — it also discloses a new behavior in the universe that we never knew existed before.