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Discovery of the century: LIGO Detects Gravitational Waves

R. HURT/EPA
On Thursday, February 11, the LIGO International Collaboration announced a scientific discovery physicists had been expecting for nearly a century. It confirms Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and consists in detection of ripples in space-time – gravitational waves. 

The L.I.G.O. (LaserInterferometerGravitational-WaveObservatory) collaboration of scientists from various countries including Russia has detected a signal that marks the beginning of a new era for gravitational-wave physics. The “message” captured on September 14, 2015 at 9:51 GMT by a unique gravitational-wave detector informed about a catastrophe: two massive objects had collided in the distant galaxy about 1.3 billion years ago. 

“The discovery we celebrate today embodies the paradox of fundamental science: that it is painstaking, rigorous and slow – and electrifying, revolutionary and catalytic. Without basic science, our best guess never gets any better, and "innovation" is tinkering around the edges. With the advance of basic science, society advances, too”– reads an open letter by Rafael Reif, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Head of International Board at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT). 

Established in 1992 by Rainer Weiss from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Kip Thorne and Ronald Drever from the California Institute of Technology, the LIGO project first and foremost aimed to experiment and detect gravitational waves of cosmic origin. Its budget amounted to USD 365 million. This is the most ambitious project ever funded by U.S. National Science Foundation.

Considering how unlikely it is to observe an event like that and given the unprecedented financial investments we can say the program has totally met the expectations and LIGO team will no doubt progress further, pay off and astonish the world with new results.
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