ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Discovery of Gravitational Waves as the Earth-shaking Event of the Century

Based on two detectors separated by about 3,000 km and using ultra-stable lasers, a new observatory known as the Advanced LIGO has detected gravitational waves generated by the coalescence of two black holes, that turned into a new black hole with the release of about five solar masses of energy in a few milliseconds at a distance of over a billion light years, thus confirming one of the last untested predictions of the General Theory of Relativity.

In an announcement made a few minutes after 10:30 am (United States (US) time) on 11 February 2016 at a press conference convened at the ­National Science Foundation in Washington, which was webcast live to every nook and corner of the world, David Reitze, Executive Dire­ctor of the LIGO Project of the California ­Institute of Technology, said

...We have detected gravitational waves. We did it!

Spontaneous applause broke out from the audience, and it surely did in hundreds and thousands of live screenings across the world, including at the Centre for High Energy Physics of the Indian ­Institute of Science, Bengaluru. These words will be immortalised as have so many other aphorisms that capture the romance and allure of fundamental science. Some scientists have likened the discovery of gravitational waves to the moment when Galileo started looking at the sky with a telescope.

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