GRAVITATIONAL WAVES — PATTERNS IN SPACE-TIME
A popular (and creative) form of scientific illustration
[Creative, because gravity waves may not actually exist — although the smart money (NSF) is betting that they do.]
Telescopes have been observing waves for a long time. The ones used by past astronomers were designed to make visible light waves more visible. Over time, people came to understand that there was more to the universe than what humans can register with their eyes, and started measuring radio, ultraviolet, and x-ray waves.
Most recently, scientists have turned their attention to measuring gravitational waves."Gravitational telescopes" let scientists observe fluctuations in spacetime itself.
One way of picturing gravitational waves is to imagine the universe as a stretched-out piece of fabric. Planets and stars sitting on the fabric pull it out of shape, and anything placed close to them will fall towards them.
If heavier objects, like stars and black holes, remain still, then the fabric is still as well. On the other hand, if things like neutron stars or black holes are romping around like happy, infinitely-massive puppies, the fabric will dip and ripple around them.
Those ripples in the universe are what scientists call gravitational waves.
TEXT based on How do we measure gravitational waves?
- 3D visualization of gravitational waves produced by two orbiting black holes. CREDIT: Henze, NASA (Via LIGO science)
- Simulation of two coalescing black holes. CREDIT: Werner Berger
- Computer model of the gravitational waves coming from the collision of two black holes. Image: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-ZIB (Via science daily)
- Rappresentazione artistica di onde gravitazionali prodotte dall’esplosione di una supernova. CREDIT: Infn Photo (via Imagebank)
- An iron core collapses prior to explosion in a supernova. CREDIT: Ott, Dimmelmeier, Hawke, Schnetter, Kahler [X]