StarDate Online logoContact StarDate | About StarDate | Friends of McDonald | Sign up for SkyTips
Black Holes Encyclopedia
Printable version

Jiggling Spacetime

The universe is vibrating like a concert hall where the orchestra is warming up — a symphony of overlapping waves rippling through space itself. No one has yet detected a single ripple, but scientists are looking for them. And their discovery would tell us about some of the most energetic events in the universe — and about the nature of the universe itself.

Streamers of stars and gas orbit the central black hole in this false-color image, which combines views in infrared and radio wavelengths. [NRAO/AUI]

Orbiting black holes generate gravitational waves that ripple through the universe.

The “ripples” are known as gravitational waves. They’re predicted by general relativity — Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity.

Gravitational waves are so tiny that they have been impossible to detect. Only massive, fast-moving objects, such as two neutron stars or black holes in orbit around each other, produce waves that are strong enough to detect. And even then, detecting them will require ultra-precise instruments that monitor the universe for months or years at a time.

Despite the challenges, the search is on, and scientists hope to discover these elusive waves in the next few years.

These radio programs offer a glimpse of gravitational waves and the quest to discover them. We will offer a longer look at this exciting field of astrophysics soon.

Radio Programs

Gravitational Waves
Gravitational Waves II
Gravitational Waves III
Gravitational Waves IV
Gravitational Waves V

General Relativity
Relativity and GPS
Luna See
Gravity Probe B
Wobbly Clocks

Related Info

Research Question

Can we detect gravitational waves produced by orbiting black holes?

Researchers

Laser Interferometric Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO)

Results to Date

Gravitational waves have not yet been detected.

Resources

On the Edge: Gravitational Waves

Einstein Online: Gravitational Waves

Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy

Hope for breakthrough in search for gravitational waves

LIGO: A new way to explore the universe