Gravitational waves not only represent the final confirmation of the general theory of relativity, they will provide us with a new way to see the cosmos. But what are these ripples in space-time and where do they come from? Although event GW150914 does not have the most catchy name, it is quite significant for our understanding of the universe.
This event, whose name includes the prefix “GW,” which is short for “Gravitational Wave,” and the date of observation, 15/09/14, marked the first direct detection of gravitational waves in human history. This event was revolutionary in two ways: first, it successfully confirmed the prediction made in Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity nearly a century earlier.
The prediction that said events occurring in the universe not only warp space-time, but in some cases can actually cause ripples in that cosmic fabric. The second important aspect of this observation was that it represented an entirely new way of “seeing” the universe, its events and objects. This new method of exploring the cosmos led to an entirely new form of astronomy: multichannel astronomy. It combines “traditional” observations of the universe in the electromagnetic spectrum with the detection of gravitational waves, allowing us to observe objects that were previously invisible to us. Thus, the discovery of gravitational waves has indeed opened a whole new window into the cosmos, but what are gravitational waves, what do they say about the objects that create them, and how do we detect such tiny fluctuations in reality itself?