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Gravitational Waves Confirmed From Colliding Black Holes 2 Billion Years Ago

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Scientists have identified another surge of gravitational waves coming from two black holes that are joining together. They collided nearly 2 billion years ago, but the distance from Earth is so far that the shockwaves are only reaching this planet now.

This marks the fourth confirmed detection of said waves made by a global team looking into Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, the BBC reports.

Sheila Rowan of Glasgow University in the United Kingdom said the team is now standing on the brink of a whole new understanding regarding black holes. She said,

It is tantalizing to see this new story of how black holes formed and evolved through history of the cosmos. This information is almost within our grasp but we are not quite there yet.

Gravitational waves are currents in space and time that occur when huge events in the universe – such as the explosion of a giant star or two black holes colliding – happen. They can be likened to ripples in a pond when a pebble hits its surface. In the same way that the water moves, all matter is distorted for a while as the gravitational wave passes through.

This warping effect was predicted by Albert Einstein over 100 years ago, and detectors in the USA and Italy have been confirming their existence. Two labs in the US run by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration made initial finds in 2015, and again in January this year.

In Pisa, a third detection system run by the VIRGO Scientific Collaboration makes measuring the waves more accurate and narrows down the source. Giovanni Losurdo, who led the VIRGO project, said that the addition of the detector in Italy is a “milestone.” He said, “The whole enterprise was based, since its start, on a visionary goal: the creation of a network capable of localising the sources in the sky and to start the era of investigation of the Universe. And finally, after decades, we are there.”

The new collision was picked up on August 14, of two black holes around 25 and 31 times bigger than the mass of this solar system’s sun, in the direction of the constellation Eridanus.

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