Three scientists from the UW have cooperated in the discovery of gravitational waves. The research has confirmed a major prediction of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.


Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.


In 1916 in “Aproximate integration of the field equations of gravitation” Albert Einstein predicted the emission of gravitational waves by objects orbiting each other. With the observation and the publication of the paper, just under 100 years elapsed between the beginning of the theory and the first capture of gravitational waves.


The detection of gravitational waves was on 14th September 2015 by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston (Louisiana) and Hanford (Washington) in the USA. The initial detection was made by the online search program Coherent WaveBurst, which indentifies generic gravitational wave transients in the LIGO data stream.


The discovery, accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters, was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) – a group of more than 1000 scientists from universities around the USA and 14 other countries as well as Virgo Collaboration, consisting of more than 250 physicists and engineers belonging to 19 different European research groups. One of them is the POLGRAW. Scientists from the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Warsaw: Prof. Tomasz Bulik, Prof. Krzysztof Belczyński and Dr. Izabela Kowalska-Leszczyńska have been working in this group.


Prof. Tomasz Bulik and Prof. Krzysztof Belczyński have been working on astrophysical sources of gravitational waves. They are the authors of predictions that the first sources are two black holes.


Dr Izabela Kowalska-Leszczyńska has been analyzing the data in the research group.


More information about the discovery of gravitational waves.