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Here Come the Waves

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Here Come the Waves

After a clutch of historic detections, gravitational wave researchers have set their sights on some ambitious scientific quarry.


5 min read
4 take-aways
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What's inside?

Gravitational waves offer the latest tests for Albert Einstein’s theories of General Relativity.

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  • Scientific
  • Overview
  • Inspiring


An entirely new field of observational astronomy was inaugurated with the operation of gravitational wave observatories in the United States in 2015 and Italy in 2017. Until recently, gravitational forces could only be inferred from the distribution and motion of astronomical objects, but now a new window is opening up on the structure of the universe. Davide Castelvecchi’s overview of the achievements of gravitational wave astronomy to date and its future development is an exciting and approachable introduction to a fascinating new frontier.


In the 1980s, Bernard Schutz theorized that gravitational waves would allow more accurate measurements of distance in the universe.

Astronomers long relied on the brightness of stars to estimate their distance from Earth, a method with limited accuracy. Back in the 1980s, Bernard Schutz at the University of Cardiff proposed measuring the gravitational waves of large interacting masses, which would allow more precise measurements.

In 2017, scientists measured the gravitational waves originating from the merger of two neutron stars.

In August of 2017, Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the United States and the Virgo observatory in Italy detected a 100-second long signal from a pair of merging neutron...

About the Author

Davide Castelvecchi is a staff reporter for Nature. He trained as a mathematician, received a doctorate from Stanford University and did post-doctoral work at the University of Paris-Sud at Orsay.

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