An international team of scientists have validated one of Albert Einstein's most elusive theories: that black holes produce gravitational waves that stretch and compress space and time. Their evidence, The New York Times reports
, is the "chirping" sound of two black holes colliding 1 billion light-years away.
"I think this will be one of the major breakthroughs in physics for a long time," said Columbia University Professor Szabolcs Marka.
Marka was one of more than 1,000 researchers who participated in the decades-long LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the European Virgo Collaboration, which published a report in the Physical Review of Letters
this morning. In the past, scientists have used telescopes to observe events in space. The sound of the cosmic collision, which reached the middle C tone before falling silent, marks the first time anyone has heard an event that took place in space.
"Finally, astronomy grew ears," Marka said. "We never had ears before."
Two American facilities—L-shaped antennas near Hartford, Wash., and Livingston, La.—bore witness to the event Sept. 14. Their work was made possible by the National Science Foundation, which over the past 40 years has put about $1.1 billion into the project on a gamble that Einstein's space-time theory was correct.
Scientists said the magnitude of the gravitational waves was approximately 50 times greater than the combined energy of every star in the universe.