Italian scientist first to spot gravitational waves, claims report

Scientists working with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) on Thursday announced the detection of gravitational waves.

Updated: Feb 13, 2016, 00:51 AM IST
PlayItalian scientist first to spot gravitational waves, claims report
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New Delhi: The historic detection of gravitational waves – ripples in spacetime itself – has thrown the scientific community into a paroxysms of joy.

 

In one of the biggest discoveries in astrophysics, scientists working with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) on Thursday announced the detection of gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes.

But, did you know which of the 1000 scientists, who work on the historic project LIGO, a pair of ground-based observatories in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana, was the first to spot the long-awaited signal?

It is none other than Marco Drago, an Italian post-doctoral researcher, who plays classical piano and has published two fantasy novels.

 

It is said that on September 14, 2015, Drago from Padua, Italy, was at his office at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hanover, Germany, when his automated computer pipeline sent him an email alert - telling him that both LIGO detectors had registered an “event” (a nonroutine reading) 3 minutes earlier, at 11:50:45 a.m. local time.

The signal was so strong that Drago didn’t believe it was real and assumed to be an injection. “No one was expecting something so huge,” he was quoted as saying.

 

An hour after receiving the alert, he sent a broadcast email to the entire LIGO collaboration asking them if oanyone was aware of anything that could be an injection. A few days later, collaboration leaders verified the signal and sent out a follow up memo to the team saying that the signal probably was not an injection.

Later, on September 18, 2015, the LIGO Laboratory began new deep space observations using “Advanced LIGO” detectors at a sensitivity roughly four times greater than Initial LIGO.

On February 11, 2016, scientists announced that the gravitational waves were detected on September 14, 2015 at 5:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (09:51 UTC) by both of the twin LIGO detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA.

 

In his Theory of General Relativity, Albert Einstein had predicted such a phenomenon would occur when two black holes collided, but it had never before been observed.

The detection of gravitational waves was one of the most important developments in science since the discovery of the Higgs particle.