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Conceptual image of gravitational waves

Conceptual image of gravitational waves

F012/8881

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Credit

MARK GARLICK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY MARK GARLICK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

In physics, gravitational waves are ripples in the curvature of space-time that propagate as a wave, traveling outward from the source. Predicted to exist by Albert Einstein in 1915 on the basis of his theory of general relativity, gravitational waves theoretically transport energy as gravitational radiation. Although gravitational radiation has not been directly detected, there is indirect evidence for its existence. As objects with mass move around in space-time, the curvature changes to reflect the changed locations of those objects. In certain circumstances, accelerating objects generate changes in this curvature, which propagate outwards at the speed of light in a wave-like manner. The illustration shows a pair of neutron stars orbiting each other very closely, sending gravitational waves pulsing along the 'skin' of space-time.

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