Based scientists earn Nobel Prize for work on gravitational waves

Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.   

  Ken Richardson

Now, Rainer Weiss, professor emeritus of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has won the Nobel Prize in physics for 2017 for his work in finally observing those waves.

With the highly sensitive equipment up and running, LIGO was able to pick up the first gravitational wave from a collision between two black holes 1.3bn years ago in deep space.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Science while announcing the winners stated that "this was a discovery which shook the world".

Rainer Weiss, 85, from MIT, will be awarded half of the $1.1 million prize.

The observatory's presence near the Hanford site is visually astonishing, and aside from its role in detecting gravitational waves, the facility played a huge role in earning three men the Nobel Prize for physics.

"When we first discovered them back in September 2015 many of us didn't believe it", The Washington Post quotes Weiss as saying during a phone call to the Stockholm conference.

Gravitational waves are extremely faint ripples in space, generated by some of the most violent events in the universe.

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Louisiana's Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from LSU's Baton Rouge campus.

The discovery ushers in a new era of gravitational-wave astronomy and provides astronomers with a new set of tools to probe the cosmos.

LIGO team's visualization of gravitational waves caused by two rapidly orbiting black holes in a binary system.

Gravitational waves then distort the distances of these two beams by a tiny amount. The first detections came in 2015 (published in early 2016), but the Nobel Committee always waits at least a year to make an award.

Kip Thorne, a theoretical professor of physics at California Institute of Technology, also has a special connection with Hollywood. The first trace at Hanford, Washington state, matched nearly exactly the second at Livingston, Louisiana, 3000 kilometres away.

Married to a film producer, he heavily consulted on the film Interstellar, and his own calculations helped the special effects team create realistic visuals of black holes.

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