Gravitational Waves, Drawing Us In

Since 2015, we have for the first time access to a new way to do astronomy. New observatories – the LIGO Observatories – were turned on and picked up signals from some of the most violent events in our cosmos; the collision of ‘black holes’. These signals, called gravitational waves, are ripples in spacetime itself, and carry with them information about what has produced them – making them invisible messengers from the far reaches of our Universe. The quest to detect these signals was triggered over a hundred years ago by Einstein but ramped up in earnest over the last few decades, gathering together over 1000 scientists from around 14 countries to work together, and resulting in the award of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics for the first detection of gravitational waves. This story has attracted numerous authors and even a sociologist of science in attempts to describe the quest over the years. Dr. Sheila Rowan describes some of the key science of this new way to study our Universe with pointers to futher reading covering fascinating aspects of the history of this field.