Gravitational Waves
An artist's rendering of an outburst on an ultra-magnetic neutron star, also called a magnetar is shown in this handout provided by NASA February 10, 2016. Reuters/NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

A team of more than 1,000 scientists from more than 90 universities around the world has detected gravitational waves for the second time in history. The team also included Canberra scientists at the Australian National University (ANU). According to the scientists, catastrophic black hole collisions are a common thing in space.

The gravitational waves detected were tiny ripples in time and space. They were formed as a result of two black holes merging. The researchers said that this “coalescence” of black holes has opened up a completely new field of astronomy.

In order to go billions of years back in time into the previously invisible space, scientists use gravitational waves. This incredible discovery was made on Boxing Day 2015 in the US. Interestingly, the discovery came just four months after the same group of scientists detected these waves for the very first time. It took several months of analysis to confirm this recent discovery, which has been published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

The discovery was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. The ANU scientists helped in developing some of the crucial technologies used in the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (aLIGO) in the United States that made the first detection.

The ANU scientists made significant other contributions including data analysis methods and techniques that squeeze laws of quantum mechanics and stabilising sensitivity systems. The same technologies helped in the second detection of the mysterious waves.

Gravitational waves were first predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916 in his theory of relativity. Professor Susan Scott said that both the detections have confirmed Einstein’s theory and now scientists can test the theory in extreme parts of the universe through black hole collisions.

“With this second event we can close the lid on his theories and now embark upon the era of gravitational wave astronomy … it really has opened up this window on to the universe and we can now map more of [it] than ever before,” Scott told The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Boxing Day Event in 2015 saw fierce collision of two black holes eight and 14 times the size of our sun. The collision occurred approximately 1.4 billion years ago in a faraway galaxy.

Dr. Robert Ward from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering (RSPE) said that “gravitational waves are our newest way to observe the universe.” University of Western Australia’s professor David Blair termed the discovery “fantastically significant.”

“So you have to see more to get some idea of how many signals are out there and to get an idea of what we can expect in the future as we improve the detectors. This signal tells us that there's going to be a flood of gravity wave signals coming in the next few years as the detectors are improved,” Blair told the ABC.

Who knows what other mysterious things will be revealed once scientists improve on the sensitivity of the detectors?

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