On February 12, Physical Review Letters published an article about the first ever direct detection of gravitational waves 100 years after Einstein’s prediction. IAP RAS reseachers who are also academics at Lobachevsky University (UNN) are among the authors of the article about this discovery.

The gravitational waves were detected on September 14, 2015 at 5:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (09:51 UTC) by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA.

The LIGO Observatories are funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF). They were conceived, built, and are operated by Caltech and MIT. The discovery was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration using data from the two LIGO detectors.

The Institute of Applied Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IAP RAS), a close partner of Lobachevsky University (UNN), has been an active participant of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration since 1997. The major IAP RAS contribution to LIGO is an invention of unique optical isolators operating in high power laser radiation. IAP RAS researchers not only developed and manufactured these isolators, but also installed them on Virgo and LIGO detectors.

The IAP RAS website says that scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at the Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant Universe. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of a merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. The two black holes were about 29 and 36 times the mass of the Sun, and the event took place 1.3 billion years ago. About 3 times the mass of the Sun was converted into gravitational waves in a fraction of a second—with a peak power output about 50 times that of the whole visible Universe.

The discovery confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

Prof. Alexander M. Sergeev (IAP RAS Director), Prof. Efim Khazanov (Head of IAP RAS Department of Nonlinear Dynamics and Optics) and Researcher Oleg Palashov are members of a group of scientists who develop detector technology and analyze data. Prof. Efim Khazanov and Oleg Palashov teach at UNN Advanced School of General and Applied Physics. IAP RAS Director, Alexander M. Sergeev, is Professor of the Department of General Physics at the Faculty of Radiophysics.

Today, IAP RAS researchers work to create a laser for a LIGO gravitational wave detector of the next generation.