Gravitational waves are the disturbance in the fabric (“curvature”) of spacetime generated by accelerated masses and propagate as waves outward from their source at the speed of light.
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for the observation of gravitational waves. This new field transforms our ability to study the universe.
For the first time, we can directly observe the mergers of binaries composed of the densest macroscopic objects in the universe—black holes and neutron stars. The results are revolutionary. We have discovered stellar mass black holes far larger than any previously known, and have seen them merge to form even larger black holes. We have seen evidence that neutron star mergers are a major source of the heavy elements in the universe. Andrew Fruchter of the Space Telescope Science Institute introduces the technology and physics behind the detection of gravitational waves.