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National Science Foundation

A century ago, Albert Einstein predicted gravitational waves -- ripples in the fabric of space-time that result from the universe's most violent phenomena. NSF-funded researchers, using one of the most precise instruments ever made -- the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) -- have detected gravitational waves that emanate from 1.3 billion years ago.

Simulation of neutron star collision and aftermath

First Detection of Gravitational Waves Produced by Colliding Neutron Stars

For the first time, scientists have directly detected gravitational waves -- ripples in space and time -- in addition to light from the spectacular collision of two neutron stars. This marks the first time that a cosmic event has been observed in both gravitational waves and light.

NSF News Release (Oct. 16, 2017)
Archive of Monday, Oct. 16 press conference webcast
NSF Media Advisory
Multimedia Resources

Showing Where the Gravitational Waves Came From
First Detection of Gravitational Waves Announced

NSF's funding of LIGO and the science behind its operation and research began in the 1970s. On Feb. 11, 2016, LIGO scientists announced their findings at a press conference organized by NSF. With representation from LIGO's many international partners and more than 1,000 collaborators, the historic announcement was webcast around the world. This discovery offers new scientific capability to observe and study our universe, much like the advent of radio astronomy or even when Galileo first used a telescope to view the night skies.

NSF News Release (Feb. 11, 2016) | NSB Statement | Media Contacts | Q&A | Speaker Biographies | Archived Webcast


Einstein himself questioned whether we could ever create an instrument sensitive enough to capture this phenomenon. Approximately 40 years ago, NSF joined this quest and began funding the science and technological innovation that led to detecting gravitational waves.

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Illustration of Massive Bodies Warp Space-Time
Additional LIGO News:

NSF News Release - Gravitational waves detected from second pair of colliding black holes (Jun. 15, 2016)

NSF Press Statement - LIGO detects third black hole merger (Jun. 1, 2017)

NSF News Release - LIGO and Virgo observatories jointly detect black hole collision (Sept. 27, 1017)

NSF News Release - NSF-funded LIGO pioneers named 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics laureates (Oct. 3, 2017)

NSF Media Advisory - Scientists to discuss new developments in gravitational-wave astronomy (Oct. 11, 2017)

Still from simulation of two black holes merging

LIGO will unveil information about the most violent phenomena in our distant universe, such as supernovae explosions or colliding black holes. The detection reported on at the press conference, in fact, sheds light on two merging black holes 1.3 billion lightyears away.

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Map of Gravitational-Wave Observatories Across the Globe
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Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.