Discovery of Gravitational Waves from Colliding Black Holes

| By on The President's Notebook

Credit: LIGO/SXS

Today, scientists announced a long-awaited and hard-won discovery: the detection of gravitational waves.  Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of spacetime, predicted about 100 years ago in Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The detection was made by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), an incredibly sophisticated pair of instruments - each 4 kilometers long, one in Louisiana and one in Washington.  The instruments detected a tiny vibration in space itself (and I mean tiny - one part in 10^21) that had the frequency signature expected for two black holes colliding. The detection by two instruments was strong confirmation that this was really a signal from space and not an earth-based artifact.  From the signal, they are able to calculate the size of the black holes (each about 30 times the mass of the sun) and when the collision happened (about 1.3 billion years ago).  

I remember the early days of this project nearly 25 years ago, co-led by scientists at MIT where I was a grad student. The collaboration now involves a thousand scientists from all over the world. It is exciting to see what humanity can discover about the universe when we are able to invest the money and time:  we can “hear” the tiny chirp of space vibrating in ripples of a mammoth event far off in time and space.  For me as a Christian, it gives me yet another reason to praise our amazing Creator!


Press release:

Video of black holes colliding:

Video of gravitational waves:

5-minute video overview of gravitational waves:





Haarsma, Deborah. "Discovery of Gravitational Waves from Colliding Black Holes" N.p., 11 Feb. 2016. Web. 18 February 2019.


Haarsma, D. (2016, February 11). Discovery of Gravitational Waves from Colliding Black Holes
Retrieved February 18, 2019, from /blogs/deborah-haarsma-the-presidents-notebook/discovery-of-gravitational-waves-from-colliding-black-holes

About the Author

Deborah Haarsma

Deborah Haarsma serves as the President of BioLogos, a position she has held since January 2013. Previously, she served as professor and chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Gifted in interpreting complex scientific topics for lay audiences, Dr. Haarsma often speaks to churches, colleges, and schools about the relationships between science and Christian faith. She is author (along with her husband Loren Haarsma) of Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (2011, 2007), a book presenting the agreements and disagreements of Christians regarding the history of life and the universe. Haarsma is an experienced research scientist, with several publications in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology.

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