Albert Einstein’s last unproven theory has finally been confirmed. Gravitational waves – ripples in space-time – have been confirmed to exist after decades of research and experimentation. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) proved Einstein’s theory with the observation of waveforms created by the collision of two black holes, an event long predicted but never before measured.

The concept of gravitational waves was part of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, which he published in 1915. He lacked the technology to test his theory, and it’s taken modern science decades to catch up to his brilliant mind. A gravitational wave can be thought of much like the ripples in a pool of water after a pebble breaks the surface, except when applied to space. The theory posited that, when an object moves through space, they create waves in the space-time continuum. Scientists confirmed their existence by finally capturing the sound of colliding black holes, which can be heard here:

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LIGO, operated by Caltech and MIT with participation from international researchers, captured measurements of gravitational waveforms from two colliding black holes on Sept 14, 2015. Collisions between black holes have long been predicted, but never previously observed. The gravitational waves detected were “produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole,” according to LIGO’s announcement.

In addition to making history for Einstein’s scientific contribution to the world, this finding could lead to breakthroughs in other areas of science. “This detection is the beginning of a new era: The field of gravitational wave astronomy is now a reality,” said Gabriela (Gabi) González, LSC spokesperson and professor of physics and astronomy at Louisiana State University.

The National Science Foundation streamed the announcement live this morning, and the full report was published in the journal Physical Review Letters.


Images via LIGO