One of modern physics' most well-known theories just got proven true today, and it's one of the most significant (and exciting) scientific discoveries in decades. A hundred years after Albert Einstein published his theory of general relativity, scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory have finally proven that gravitational waves exist in our universe. A gravitational wave is a ripple in space-time and, according to Einstein's theory, they happen whenever an object moves in the universe. Unfortunately, until now, these ripples have been far too small to detect. The discovery could usher a new era in astronomy that uses gravitational waves to measure and detect mysterious phenomena in outer space, rather than solely relying on visual means of exploring the universe. "We'll be able to find objects we only imagined would exist. We should see a universe that has never been observed before," Szabolcs Marka, a physics professor at Columbia University, told CNN. Did anyone else just get a huge hankering to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation? The discovery happened when physicists monitored the collision of two distant (1.3 billion light years away-distant) black holes. They were able to hear, and record, the sound of that massive collision: a chirp with a rising tone, which is exactly what Einstein predicted would happen in his general theory of relativity. Scientists observed the collision on September 14, but publicly announced the findings today. You can see graphs of what they observed, below.
One black hole was roughly the mass of 36 of our suns, while the other was slightly smaller, the mass of 29 suns. A "normal" black hole is closer to 10 solar masses, the Washington Post says. Here's the sound that the physicists observed when they collided, proving Einstein's theory:
It's an amazing day for science. We can't wait to see what gravitational waves reveal about our vast, majestic universe in the years to come.