Images: Scientists Make Historic Discovery of Gravitational Waves
International collaboration breakthrough confirms Einstein's general theory of relativity
These images and charts (above) were developed by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration. LIGO observed the merger of two black holes, which do not emit light. These slides show visualizations of the black hole system found by solving equations from Einstein's general theory of relativity, as well as the scientific data collected by LIGO when it detected this astrophysical event. Detailed information below.
Two Black Holes Merge Into One: The collision of two black holes -- an event detected for the first time ever by LIGO -- is seen in this still from a computer simulation. LIGO detected gravitational waves, or ripples in space and time, generated as the black holes merged. The simulation shows what the merger would look like if we could somehow get a closer look. The stars appear warped due to the strong gravity of the black holes. Image credit: SXS
Gravitational Waves, As Einstein Predicted: The plots show signals of gravitational waves detected by the twin LIGO observatories. The signals came from two merging black holes 1.3 billion light-years away. The top two plots show data received at each detector, along with waveforms predicted by general relativity. The X-axis plots time, the Y-axis strain -- the fractional amount by which distances are distorted. The LIGO data match the predictions very closely. The final plot compares data from both facilities, confirming the detection. Image credit: LIGO
Gravitational-Wave Observatories Across the Globe: Current operating facilities in the global network include the twin LIGO detectors -- in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana -- and GEO600 in Germany. The Virgo detector in Italy and the Kamioka Gravitational Wave Detector (KAGRA) in Japan are undergoing upgrades and are expected to begin operations in 2016 and 2018, respectively. A sixth observatory is being planned in India. Having more gravitational-wave observatories around the globe helps scientists pin down the locations and sources of gravitational waves coming from space. Image credit: LIGO
Massive Bodies Warp Spacetime: How our sun and Earth warp space and time, or spacetime, is represented here with a green grid. As Albert Einstein demonstrated in his theory of general relativity, the gravity of massive bodies warps the fabric of space and time -- and those bodies move along paths determined by this geometry. His theory also predicted the existence of gravitational waves, which are ripples in space and time. These waves, which move at the speed of light, are created when massive bodies accelerate through space and time. Image credit: LIGO/T. Pyle
Where the Gravitational Waves Came From: The source of gravitational waves detected by the twin LIGO facilities in Louisiana and Washington is shown on this sky map of the southern hemisphere. Purple indicates a 90 percent confidence level in the location; yellow a 10 percent confidence level. Researchers located the source using data from both detectors. The gravitational waves arrived at the respective detectors 7 milliseconds apart. This time delay revealed a particular slice of sky, or ring, where the signal must have come from. Image credit: LIGO