LIGO wins Nobel Prize

LIGO wins Nobel Prize

One half of the prize went to Weiss, born in Berlin and now a USA citizen, who is a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Two US-based instruments working in unison, called the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), detected the first waves caused by colliding black holes.

If gravitational waves are at play, the laser light will have travelled a slightly different distance and that variation is detected.

The observation of gravitational waves promises a revolution in our understanding of the universe, especially when it comes to observing incredibly violent and catastrophic events like the collision of black holes.

The first-ever direct observation of gravitational waves was made in September 2015 at LIGO, the result of an event some 1.3 billion light-years away.

A fourth detection was made together with a similar European facility, Virgo, near Pisa in Italy, that joined the global hunt for gravitational waves in August this year.

Even though the cataclysmic events which cause gravitational waves are incredibly powerful, the signals are nearly imperceptible by the time they reach earth, requiring extremely sensitive instruments to detect them.

Triggered when super-dense black holes merge, the waves were detected using laser beams at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

The Nobel Physics Prize 2017 has been awarded to three scientists for their discoveries in gravitational waves.

More news: Trump says he 'won't fail' with North Korea

A major upgrade to LIGO by the United States and its current worldwide partners including the UK allowed for the detection of gravitational waves in September 2015.

With Tuesday's announcement, the total number of Physics Nobel Prize recipients has increased to 206 (the total number of Prizes is 207; John Bardeen received the award twice).

Although three winners were announced, the award is being split in half - one half to Weiss and the other to Barish and Thorne.

■ 2011: Saul Perlmutter, Adam Riess (US) and Brian Schmidt (US-Australian) for discovering the accelerating expansion of the universe.

Who are the winners: Rainer Weiss, whose 85th birthday was last Friday, is a German-born American physicist and professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

University of Washington astrophysicist Krishna Venkateswara, a member of the collaboration, told GeekWire in an email that he was "very proud that the award went to the founders of LIGO, who have inspired the rest of us to pursue this wonderful science". "This truly the dawn of gravitational-wave astronomy", Botner said. It took months for the scientists to convince themselves that they had in fact heard gravitational waves, he said. "We have unlocked this new window of the Universe, and we're just starting to peek in", says Laura Cadonati, a LIGO collaborator and professor of physics at Georgia Institute of Technology.

It was in collaboration with Barish, the scientist and leader of the LIGO project who saw it to completion, that their decades of research finally led to irrefutable proof.

Professor Jame Hough, associate Director of the IGR, said "I'm proud to have worked with my colleagues in Ligo honoured by the committee".

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