We think (classically) of a gravitational field coming from a small object of mass M extending into space, with its strength declining as the inverse square of the distance. Gravitational Waves are ripples in the curvature of space-time which propagate as waves, travelling outward from the source. It was predicted in 1916 by Albert Einstein on the basis of his theory of general relativity, gravitational waves transport energy as gravitational radiation. The existence of gravitational waves is a possible consequence of the Lorentz invariance of general relativity since it brings the concept of a limiting speed of propagation of the physical interactions with it. By contrast, gravitational waves cannot exist in the Newtonian theory of gravitation, which postulates that physical interactions propagate at infinite speed.
The phenomenon detected was the collision of two black holes. Using the world’s most sophisticated detector, the scientists listened for 20 thousandths of a second as the two giant black holes, one 35 times the mass of the sun, the other slightly smaller, circled around each other.
So gravitational waves are produced by two colliding black holes came together and merged to form a single black hole.
It was detected by Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo). In February 2016, the Advanced LIGO team announced that they had detected gravitational waves from a pair of black holes merging.
Gravitational waves should penetrate regions of space that electromagnetic waves cannot. It is hypothesized that they will be able to provide observers on Earth with information about black holes and other exotic objects in the distant Universe. Such systems cannot be observed with more traditional means such as optical telescopes or radio telescopes, and so gravitational-wave astronomy gives new insights into the working of the Universe. In particular, gravitational waves could be of interest to cosmologists as they offer a possible way of observing the very early Universe. This is not possible with conventional astronomy, since before recombination the Universe was opaque to electromagnetic radiation. Precise measurements of gravitational waves will also allow scientists to test the general theory of relativity more thoroughly.
“So literally, by gathering gravitational waves we will be able to see exactly what happened at the initial singularity. The most weird and wonderful prediction of Einstein’s theory was that everything came out of a single event: the big bang singularity. And we will be able to see what happened.”
In principle, gravitational waves could exist at any frequency. However, very low frequency waves would be impossible to detect and there is no credible source for detectable waves of very high frequency. Stephen W. Hawking and Werner Israel list different frequency bands for gravitational waves that could be plausibly detected, ranging from 10−7 Hz up to 1011 Hz.
In general terms, gravitational waves are radiated by objects whose motion involves acceleration, provided that the motion is not perfectly spherically symmetric (like an expanding or contracting sphere) or cylindrically symmetric (like a spinning disk or sphere). A simple example of this principle is provided by the spinning dumbbell. If the dumbbell spins like wheels on an axle, it will not radiate gravitational waves; if it tumbles end over end like two planets orbiting each other, it will radiate gravitational waves. The heavier the dumbbell, and the faster it tumbles, the greater is the gravitational radiation it will give off. If we imagine an extreme case in which the two weights of the dumbbell are massive stars like neutron stars or black holes, orbiting each other quickly, then significant amounts of gravitational radiation would be given off.
Some more detailed examples:
Two objects orbiting each other in a quasi-Keplerian planar orbit (basically, as a planet would orbit the Sun) will radiate.
A spinning non-axis symmetric planetoid — say with a large bump or dimple on the equator — will radiate.
A supernova will radiate except in the unlikely event that the explosion is perfectly symmetric.
An isolated non-spinning solid object moving at a constant velocity will not radiate. This can be regarded as a consequence of the principle of conservation of linear momentum.
A spinning disk will not radiate. This can be regarded as a consequence of the principle ofconservation of angular momentum. However, it will show gravitomagnetic effects.
A spherically pulsating spherical star (non-zero monopole moment or mass, but zero quadrupole moment) will not radiate, in agreement with Birkhoff's theorem.
More technically, the third time derivative of the quadrupole moment (or the l-th time derivative of the l-th multipole moment) of an isolated system's stress–energy tensor must be nonzero in order for it to emit gravitational radiation. This is analogous to the changing dipole moment of charge or current necessary for electromagnetic radiation.
The effects of a passing gravitational wave can be visualized by imagining a perfectly flat region of spacetime with a group of motionless test particles lying in a plane (e.g., the surface of your screen). As a gravitational wave passes through the particles along a line perpendicular to the plane of the particles (i.e. following your line of vision into the screen), the particles will follow the distortion in spacetime, oscillating in a "cruciform" manner, as shown in the animations. The area enclosed by the test particles does not change and there is no motion along the direction of propagation.
Like other waves, there are a few useful characteristics describing a gravitational wave:
Amplitude: Usually denoted h, this is the size of the wave — the fraction of stretching or squeezing in the animation. The amplitude shown here is roughly h = 0.5 (or 50%). Gravitational waves passing through the Earth are many sextillion times weaker than this — h ≈ 10−20.
Frequency: Usually denoted f, this is the frequency with which the wave oscillates (1 divided by the amount of time between two successive maximum stretches or squeezes)
Wavelength: Usually denoted λ, this is the distance along the wave between points of maximum stretch or squeeze.
Speed: This is the speed at which a point on the wave (for example, a point of maximum stretch or squeeze) travels. For gravitational waves with small amplitudes, this is equal to the speed of light (c).
The speed, wavelength, and frequency of a gravitational wave are related by the equation c = λ f, just like the equation for a light wave. For example, the animations shown here oscillate roughly once every two seconds. This would correspond to a frequency of 0.5 Hz, and a wavelength of about 600 000 km, or 47 times the diameter of the Earth