11 February 2016

The Optical Society Commends LIGO Research Team on Discovery of Gravitational Waves

Discovery Enabled by Advanced Optical Direct-Detect Interferometers
WASHINGTON – Astrophysicists have long sought to detect ripples in space-time called gravitational waves since they realized Albert Einstein’s 1916 general theory of relativity predicted their existence. But only some of the most massive astrophysical events, such as mergers of black holes and neutron stars, can produce gravitational waves strong enough to be detected on earth. Since the 1990s, research teams from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) have collectively tried to observe gravitational waves. Today’s announcement from the LIGO Scientific Collaboration on the confirmed detection of gravitational waves will impact the physical sciences for years to come.

“For years, many members of The Optical Society have been actively researching this phenomenon of nature,” said Elizabeth Rogan, CEO of The Optical Society. “For example, radio astronomers and 1978 Noble Prize winners Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson’s team at Bell Labs found the signal to the early universe, and today this type of groundbreaking work continues. We congratulate the LIGO Scientific Collaboration on this remarkable achievement of gravitational wave astronomy.”

Robert L. Byer, Co-Director, Stanford University – Photonics Research Center, Stanford, California, USA and 1994 President of The Optical Society explained, “This discovery allows us to look at our universe in a way that we could have never imagined. Over time, advancements in optical interferometers have enabled the global team to reach the point where these gravitational waves can be detected. This is an achievement for science and the optics industry.”

With these advanced optics-based systems, the research team was able to measure gravitational waves on Earth, enabling them to pinpoint the precise moments they were produced.  Unlike light, gravitational waves are not diminished by interstellar dust as they propagate through space. By detecting them, the research team is able to peer into the most energetic events of the universe and explore the cosmos in a completely new way.

About The Optical Society
Founded in 1916, The Optical Society (OSA) is the leading professional organization for scientists, engineers, students and entrepreneurs who fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate achievements in the science of light. Through world-renowned publications, meetings and membership initiatives, OSA provides quality research, inspired interactions and dedicated resources for its extensive global network of optics and photonics experts. For more information, visit osa.org/100.

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