It is a major discovery in the history of astronomy: the discovery of gravitational waves, an Einstein theory that could not be directly determined until now. Investigative Team posted on June 28, 2023 in Astronomy and astrophysics And Astrophysical Journal Conclusions This scientific breakthrough, which requires resuming the work of Newton and Einstein quickly to understand how scientists were able to “hear” these waves.
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Einstein’s complex theory must be watched
We should take over the work of Newton and Einstein. In the 17th century, Newton theorized universal gravity: masses attract each other with differences depending on their weight and distance. The movement of bodies goes along with this gravitational pull: the moon, moving in one direction, is constantly subject to gravity, which pulls it toward the Earth. So it emits a rotation around the Earth because it is attracted to the Earth and moves in a different direction, putting it on a circular path.
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Einstein for the twentieth century would propose a different view of things: the mass of things would warp space-time, and thus cause the gravity of things. If you place a bowling ball in the center of a sheet taut, the sheet will sink in the middle. If we roll a ball on this sheet, it will also sink towards the center and the bowling ball. But it is not the bowling ball that attracts the ball: it is the warping of space created by the bowling ball’s mass around it that causes this attraction. In other words, it is not the mass of an object that creates gravity, but rather the distortion of space-time that follows its mass. But what does this have to do with these gravitational waves?
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Gravitational waves are well hidden
The greater the mass of an object, the greater the curvature of space-time and so does gravity. The displacement of a very massive object in space-time will displace this high curvature, so much so that in some cases a disturbance in space-time may appear and spread: this is the gravitational wave, which Einstein theorized.
But we’ve never managed to spot them, and for good reason: They require objects of amazing mass and very low frequency. However, they have an essential role in the study of space, as they can provide information about high-mass objects and the workings of the universe. So how do we spot waves that are still really theoretical and elusive?
Pulsar as a relay of gravitational waves
This is where pulsars, dead stars from supernova explosions, come into play. These celestial bodies send out radio signals incredibly regularly, several hundred times per second, hence the name. pulsarThe shaking star in Molière’s language). Using a network of more than 100 pulsars, the idea, then, was to identify precise indicators of frequency changes in the signals emitted by pulsars: we’re talking here about differences on the order of nanoseconds.
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Two gravitational-wave detectors were already able to detect Quiver in 2015; This time, scientists from the Puslar Timing Array Consortium (IPTA) managed to “hear” a more stretched signal, which is a sign of a phenomenon on a larger scale. This detected signal is equivalent to “Changes of less than a millionth of a second over more than 20 years“According to Antoine Petito, of the Atomic Energy Commission, interviewed by our colleagues from AFP. This perturbation is common to each of the hundreds of pulsars, and is evidence of a gravitational wave. The cause? Black holes.”Several million to several billion times the mass of the SunAnd it is larger than the size of our own solar system, according to information provided to our colleagues atFrance Press agency By Gilles Thoreau, astronomer at the Paris Observatory PSL.
Einstein’s theory put forward more than a century ago is therefore clearly observable, and suggests developments in the field of astrophysics: in the words of Gilles Thoreau, “We open a new window on the universe“.
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