Gravitational Waves – UPSC Prelims

Gravitational Waves:
  • Gravitational waves are oscillations in the fabric of space-time, moving at the speed of light and caused by the acceleration of massive objects.
  • They can be generated, for example, by supernovas, neutron star binaries spiralling around each other, and pairs of merging black holes.
  • Hypothesised by Albert Einstein a century ago
  • These were first seen last year by the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)
Why they are useful?
  • These waves will be particularly useful for studying black holes (the existence of which was first implied by Einstein’s theory) and other dark objects, because they’ll give scientists a bright beacon to search for even when objects don’t emit actual light.
  • With this, mapping the abundance of black holes and frequency of their mergers could get a lot easier.
  • Since they pass through matter without interacting with it, gravitational waves would come to Earth carrying undistorted information about their origin.
  • They could also improve methods for estimating the distances to other galaxies.

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