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Videos and Animations

LIGO: The First Observation of Gravitational Waves (3:35)

On September 14, 2015, LIGO observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime. This video narrative tells the story of the science behind that important detection.

Credit: Caltech

LIGO: Opening a New Window Onto the Universe (5:15)

This video narrative tells the story of the history and legacy of LIGO from the genesis of the idea to the detection in September 2015.

Credit: Caltech Strategic Communications and Caltech AMT

Journey of a Gravitational Wave (2:55)

LIGO scientist David Reitze takes us on a 1.3 billion year journey that begins with the violent merger of two black holes in the distant universe. The event produced gravitational waves, tiny ripples in the fabric of space and time, which LIGO detected as they passed Earth on September 14, 2015.

Credit: LIGO/SXS/R. Hurt and T. Pyle

Two Black Holes Merge Into One (0:35)

This simulation shows how the merger would appear to our eyes if we could somehow travel in a spaceship for a closer look. It was created by solving equations from Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity using the LIGO data. The two merging black holes are each roughly 30 times the mass of the sun, with one slightly larger than the other. The event took place 1.3 billion years ago. This simulation was created by the multi-university Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project. For more information, visit

Credit: Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) Project

The Sound of Two Black Holes Colliding

Gravitational waves sent out from a pair of colliding black holes have been converted to sound waves, as heard in this animation. On September 14, 2015, LIGO observed gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes, each about 30 times the mass of our sun. The incredibly powerful event, which released 50 times more energy than all the stars in the observable universe, lasted only fractions of a second. In the first two runs of the animation, the sound-wave frequencies exactly match the frequencies of the gravitational waves. The second two runs of the animation play the sounds again at higher frequencies that better fit the human hearing range. The animation ends by playing the original frequencies again twice. As the black holes spiral closer and closer in together, the frequency of the gravitational waves increases. Scientists call these sounds "chirps," because some events that generate gravitation waves would sound like a bird's chirp.

Credit: LIGO

Einstein's Messengers LIGO Documentary (20:12)

Einstein's Messengers is an award-winning documentary on LIGO, NSF's Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory. The video examines how LIGO is spearheading the new field of gravitational wave astronomy and opening a whole new window on the universe. It explains how LIGO's exquisitely sensitive instruments may ultimately take us farther back in time than we've ever been, catching, perhaps, the first murmurs of the universe in formation. Above all, Einstein's Messengers is a compelling, thought-provoking production about the drama of the scientific quest.

Credit: NSF

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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.