Gravitational wave detectors could shed light on dark matter

04 October, 2017, 00:30 | Author: Yolanda Murray
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The Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 was divided, one half awarded to Rainer Weiss, the other half jointly to Barry C Barish and Kip S Thorne.

The initial detection by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in 2015 proved ripples course through and disrupt the fabric of spacetime, which can reveal "unseen worlds", the Nobel Prize committee said. "The National Science Foundation has supported the goal of detecting gravitational waves for four decades", said NSF Director France Córdova.

The awarding of the prize came after an worldwide team of scientists announced previous year the detection of ripples in space-time from two colliding black holes.

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.

A team of more than a thousand scientists, researchers and technicians, making up the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, discovered the first gravitational ripple in space-time in September 2015. A European sister facility, known as VIRGO based in Italy, has also detected waves more recently.

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Dr Brian Bowsher, chief executive of the UK's Science and Technology Facilities Council, said: "The award of the Nobel today is a celebration of the genius of a vast team of people, including many UK-based scientists and engineers, and it is something everyone in the United Kingdom can share in".

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the winners today in Stockholm.

But because of the rules for the scientific Nobel Prizes, no more than three physicists could be given a share of the $1.1 million award.

Dr Drever may have been recognised alongside his colleagues Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish but the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously. The discovery revolutionized the field of astronomy, giving scientists a new way to study the mysterious, dark objects that lurk in the distant Universe.

Japan has built a similar gravitational wave detector called Kagra in Gifu Prefecture.

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Weiss is a professor emeritus of physics at MIT.

"It's very very exciting that it worked out in the end, that we are actually detecting things and adding to the knowledge through gravitational waves of what goes on in the universe". Barish, a Caltech particle physicist who is now 81, replaced the talented but discordant "troika" of Drever, Thorne and Weiss as leader of LIGO in 1994. Scientists model this "interference" pattern to determine whether a gravitational wave has passed through.

Who has received the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics?

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".

Kip Thorne is a Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at California Institute of Technology.

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The Nobel Prize will be handed out on December 10 on the anniversary of the death of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who created the award in 1895.

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