On October 3rd, the Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics to three scientists involved in the work of the LIGO detector and gravitational waves. The laureates were: Reiner Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne.
The existence of gravitational waves was predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916 on the basis of his theory of general relativity. Einstein’s theory has been proved thanks to the construction of the LIGO Observatory (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory), and the first time the gravitational waves were observed was on September 14th 2015, when two American detectors – independently from each other – recorded the signals from colliding black holes.
This breakthrough was achieved thanks to the LIGO collaborative project involving over 1000 scientists from more than 20 countries, including Poland. The research, conducted by Polish group Virgo-POLAND led by prof. Andrzej Królak, has been funded by the NCN within the HARMONIA 6 funding opportunity. The research team involved scientists from the AGH University of Science and Technology, Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center, the National Centre for Nuclear Research, the University of Bialystok, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, the University of Warsaw, the University of Wrocław and the University of Zielona Góra. The research performed by this team includes data analysis, modelling of the sources of gravitational waves, and contribution to the enhancement of the Virgo detector.