Today’s a Major Gravitational Wave Announcement ; Why you should be interested ?
Today at 7:30 PM IST scientist’s from LIGO VIRGO and 70 other observatory are about to announce a breakthrough in Gravitational Wave Astronomy. This is one of the major events that can shape the future of mankind and its understanding of the universe. But Alas most media has turned a blind eye to it as usual. So I take it upon myself to enlighten you about it and why is it important?
But before you can understand the significance let me get through the basic pre-requisites ASAP.
The fabric of Space-Time
Most of us believe that there are 3-dimensions in our universe (Length , Breadth and height) but that is not the case, actually there are 4 dimensions in our universe; the last one being Space-Time. To understand Space-time, imagine a piece of stretched fabric like a trampoline. Now a massive object like a star ,Planet or Blackhole will create a depression on this fabric.
Just like a small marble which gets drawn towards a large marble in a piece of stretched fabric due to depression, A large body (Sun)attracts a smaller body like (Earth). This is what we regard as the force of Gravitation as explained by Albert Einstein.
Now what happens when two equally massive objects get attracted towards each other ? What kind of depression is observed in the space – time fabric ? As they are equally massive they both revolve around each other causing waves to be created in the space-time fabric we know as Gravitational Waves.
Up until recently we were unable to detect the presence of Gravitational Waves owing to its very low energy density when it reaches us. Equipment which can measure change in length as accurately as less than a diameter of a proton!! Until they were detected by LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) in Hanford and Livingston, USA.
Significance of detection
Currently our detectors are powerful enough only to measure the Gravitational Waves only by collision of black-holes,(the most massive objects in our universe)and Neutron Stars (the second most massive objects in universe). When we detected the first Gravitational Waves GW150914 (15–09–14 is the date) it was a proof of not only existence of Gravitational Waves , but also one of the most direct observation of Black-holes (you know we can’t see them as space time fabric also affects the light rays) and validation of of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
Impact on Astronomy
Initially when Galileo Galileo made the first telescope, He observed the Rings of Saturn and Moons of Jupiter for the first time. All these observations were done using visible light.But there are types of light which are not visible at all like the UV , Infrared and Microwaves when Astronomers used these spectrum of light, they were either able to view further into the deep space or were able to see phenomenon which were not observable using visible light. To give you an idea look at the image below which shows our own Sun in various light spectrum.
After many years we for the first time have which are not Electromagnetic in nature but can be used to observe our universe. What new mysteries of Universe it will reveal is just unfathomable.
Impact On everyday life
It is hard to foretell what its impact will be in our daily life, but the fact that it will be significant cannot be challenged. When Soviet Union placed the first satellite Sputnik in the orbit it was more of a demonstration of capacity; but satellite technology has now enable accurate weather forecast , Advanced Communication , Remote sensing and what not!
The GPS system that we use involves Einstein’s equations to maintain precision in location tracking, A use which could not be associated during the proposal of the Theory. The advances in engineering, Design, cryogenics and Vaccum technology associated with Building these detectors will find use elsewhere for sure.
Today’s announcement surely involves discovery of another Gravitational Wave but it is extremely likely that there will be an optical observation of the incident by some of the telescope. There are many optical phenomena that are unexplained like the Gamma Ray Bursts. It is highly likely that we may be able to draw a co-relation between such phenomena and Massive cosmic Collisions which may improve our understanding of universe for Good.
Opportunity in India
A LIGO detector is planned to be constructed in India in by 2025. This project is expected to employ more than 500 scientist and engineers from various fields. It is a one of the best opportunity for students in India to get a taste of Gravitational Waves and find the motivation to work in this field as it offers great prospects not only to them but entire mankind in General.
Where to watch?
You can watch the livestream on YouTube in one of the two channels
[image Courtesy: LIGO,Indi-GO,Google Images and Creative Commons]