This black hole collision produced the first gravitational waves ever heard


Einstein was right. Ripples through the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves do exist.

Physicists just confirmed the first detection in a signal that came from a cataclysmic collision between two black holes that happened 1.3 billion years ago. Those ripples have just finally made their way to Earth.

The team of scientists from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) created a simulation from the data they collected to show what the powerful event might have looked like.


First, two black holes spiraled in towards each other, collided, and merged:

merging black holes LIGO GIF
As a bonus, this is also the first time we've ever observed two black holes merging, Dave Reitze, executive director of LIGO, said during a press conference on February 11.

The collision and merger between the two incredibly dense objects created a "violent storm in the fabric of spacetime," Reitze said. Ripples of gravitational waves spilled out:


gravitational waves LIGO GIF
The waves traveled all the way to Earth and even though they give off an incredibly weak signal, the LIGO detectors were sensitive enough to pick it up.

"The Earth is jiggling like jello," Reitze said during the press conference as he explained the simulation. In reality that jiggling is barely perceptible.

gravitational waves earth LIGO GIF
This discovery will open up an entirely new field of gravitational waves research and it has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of black holes.


"Now that we have the ability to detect these systems, now that we know that binary black holes are there, we'll begin listening to the universe," Reitze said.

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