[Gravitational Waves ]

The first direct gravitational wave observation was made on 14 September 2015 and was announced by the LIGO and Virgo interferometer collaborations on 11 February 2016. The waveform, detected by both LIGO observatories, matched the predictions of general relativity for a gravitational wave emanating from the inward spiral and merger of a pair of black holes and subsequent “ringdown” of the single resulting black hole. The signal was named GW150914 (i.e., “Gravitational Wave 20150914“). This was also the first observation of a binary black hole merger, demonstrating the existence of binary stellar-mass black hole systems, and that such mergers could occur within the current age of the universe.

This first observation was reported around the world as a remarkable accomplishment for many reasons. Efforts to prove the existence of such waves had been ongoing for over fifty years, and the waves are so minuscule that Einstein doubted they could ever be detected. The waves given off by the cataclysmic merger of GW150914 reached Earth as a ripple in space-time that changed the length of a 4-km LIGO arm by a tiny fraction of the width of a proton, proportionally equivalent to changing the distance to the nearest star by one hair’s width. The energy released during the brief climax of the event was immense, with about three solar masses converted to gravitational waves and radiated away at a peak rate of about 3.6×1049 watts — more than the combined power of all light radiated by all the stars in the observable universe. The observation was also heralded as confirming the last remaining unproven prediction of general relativity, and validating its predictions of space-time distortion in the context of large scale cosmic events, as well as inaugurating a new era of gravitational-wave astronomy, allowing probing of violent astrophysical events unobservable until now.

First observation of gravitational waves,

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=First_observation_of_gravitational_waves&oldid=704913650

(last visited Feb. 14, 2016).

LIGO-black-holes

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[Interstellar Travel]

Interstellar travel is the term used for hypothetical manned or unmanned travel between stars. Interstellar travel will be much more difficult than interplanetary spaceflight; the distances between the planets in the Solar System are less than 30 astronomical units (AU)—whereas the distances between stars are typically hundreds of thousands of AU, and usually expressed in light-years. Because of the vastness of those distances, interstellar travel would require either great speed, a high percentage of the speed of light, or huge travel time, lasting from decades to millennia or longer.

The speeds required for interstellar travel in a human lifetime far exceed what current methods of spacecraft propulsion can provide. Even with a hypothetically perfectly efficient propulsion system, the kinetic energy corresponding to those speeds is enormous by today’s standards of energy production. Moreover, collisions by the spacecraft with cosmic dust and gas can produce very dangerous effects both to passengers and the spacecraft itself.

A number of strategies have been proposed to deal with these problems, ranging from giant arks that would carry entire societies and ecosystems, to microscopic space probes. Many different spacecraft propulsion systems have been proposed to give spacecraft the required speeds, including nuclear propulsion, beam-powered propulsion, and methods based on speculative physics.

For both manned and unmanned interstellar travel, considerable technological and economic challenges need to be met. Even the most optimistic views about interstellar travel see it as only being feasible decades from now—the more common view is that it is a century or more away. However, in spite of the challenges, if interstellar travel should ever be realized, then a wide range of scientific benefits can be expected.

Interstellar travel, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Interstellar_travel&oldid=699874685 (last visited Jan. 19, 2016).

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