Slowly the great mysteries of the universe give way to humanity’s awesome powers of science!
The Mystery of How Black Holes Collide
and Merge Is Beginning to Unravel
Colliding black holes create space-time ripples that can be seen by the Laser
Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). Credit: SXS/LIGO
Last year, scientists announced that they had finally observed gravitational waves, the elusive and long sought-after ripples in the fabric of spacetime that were first posited by Albert Einstein. The waves came from a catastrophic event — the collision of two black holes located about 1.3 billion light years away from Earth — and the released energy undulated across the universe, much like ripples in a pond.
The detection by the upgraded Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Advanced LIGO), along with two subsequent gravitational wave discoveries, confirmed a major prediction of Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and heralded a new era in physics, allowing scientists to study the universe in a new way by using gravity instead of light.
But a fundamental question remains unanswered: How and why do black holes collide and merge?