gravitational wave

noun

Definition of gravitational wave

: a disturbance in space-time in the form of a wave that propagates the gravitational field Gravitational waves are a natural offshoot of the rubber-sheet construction of general relativity. Just as a massive object sitting on the fabric of spacetime creates a dimple, so moving or changing objects, under certain conditions, create wrinkles in the fabric. Those wrinkles, tiny distortions in spacetime, zoom away at the speed of light. Because these gravitational waves carry energy, anything emitting them will lose a tiny bit of its speed.Science

Examples of gravitational wave in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Though the gravitational wave observatory is currently shut down due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, upgrades over the next few years should increase its detection rate from roughly one black hole merger per week to one every hour. Quanta Magazine, "Debate Erupts Over How ‘Forbidden’ Black Holes Grow," 3 Nov. 2020 Three massive gravitational wave detection facilities were built in the mid-1990s, but for decades, scientists searched for faint signals with no avail. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, "Scientists Are Detecting More Gravitational Waves Than Ever Before," 30 Oct. 2020 The black hole in this study is 6.5 billion times more massive than our sun, whereas the gravitational wave detectors on Earth monitor black holes that are five to several dozen times the mass of the sun. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "First photo of a black hole supports Einstein's theory of relativity," 2 Oct. 2020 Within weeks of the first gravitational wave announcement from LIGO in 2016, the primordial black hole hypothesis roared back to life. Quanta Magazine, "Physicists Argue That Black Holes From the Big Bang Could Be the Dark Matter," 23 Sep. 2020 The gravitational wave event only lasted about one-tenth of a second. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "New type of black hole detected in massive collision that sent gravitational waves with a 'bang'," 2 Sep. 2020 There's still the possibility the gravitational wave detected was produced by something other than a merger of two black holes. Jordan Culver, USA TODAY, "More like a 'bang' than a 'chirp': Scientists detect gravitational wave from massive merger of 2 black holes," 4 Sep. 2020 The former details the discovery of the gravitational wave signal, while the latter discusses the signal's physical properties and its astrophysical implications. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Meet GW190521—a black-hole merger for the record books," 2 Sep. 2020 Lost in the collision was an enormous amount of energy in the form of a gravitational wave, a ripple in space that travels at the speed of light. Seth Borenstein, Anchorage Daily News, "‘Biggest bang since the Big Bang’: Black holes merge into one of a size never before observed," 2 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gravitational wave.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of gravitational wave

1906, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of gravitational wave was in 1906

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Cite this Entry

“Gravitational wave.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gravitational%20wave. Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

More from Merriam-Webster on gravitational wave

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about gravitational wave

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