Astrophysicists attempting to detect the presence of low-frequency gravitational waves are on to something, and it could be one of the biggest discoveries in the history of mankind.
By collaboration from one side of the Earth to the other, a signal has appeared in the data of a project that uses the rhythm of stars’ movement to detect these truly gargantuan intergalactic waves, and the scientists think it may be proof of the gravitational wave background, a discovery more consequential than anything in recent history.
When in 2015, researchers working at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected evidence of a single gravitational wave, a ripple in the fabric of spacetime caused by the collision of two black holes, it won the Nobel Prize in Physics.
These waves would be generated by a theoretical force known as the gravitational wave background (GWB), the equivalent of the low, continual blended hum of voices in a cafeteria or party, generated by millions of cataclysmic events saturating the universe with ripples in space time.
“These enticing first hints of a gravitational wave background suggest that supermassive black holes likely do merge and that we are bobbing in a sea of gravitational waves rippling from supermassive black hole mergers in galaxies across the universe,” said Julie Comerford, an associate professor of astrophysical and planetary science at CU Boulder and NANOGrav team member.
The power of the GWB would open up entire new fields of study, especially those related to the enigmatic supermassive blackholes, and one day if we should become a spacefaring people, the GWB would, like many other forces of nature that factor into travel on Earth, factor into space travel since the power of the low-frequency waves can alter the positions of planets, stars, and potentially even galaxies