gravitational wave


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 Later, the second star would have collapsed as well, then eventually the two would have collided and merged, sending gravitational waves cascading through the fabric of space-time. Quanta Magazine, "Possible Detection of a Black Hole So Big It ‘Should Not Exist’," 28 Aug. 2019 Any slight disruption in a pulsar’s regular rotation could be evidence of a gravitational wave passing through. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Recently Discovered Neutron Star Is Almost Too Massive to Exist," 18 Sep. 2019 The gravitational waves detected by the collision of the two bodies paint a picture to scientists through their velocity and acceleration. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "A Neutron Star Might Have Just Collided with a Black Hole," 19 Aug. 2019 Picking up the signals was a stunning achievement, and nobody was surprised when the first direct observation of gravitational waves won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Fresh analysis of LIGO data supports “no hair” theorem for black holes," 17 Sep. 2019 To detect gravitational waves, LIGO tries to sense changes in length in its two 2.5-mile-long arms. Sophia Chen, WIRED, "Physicists Hack the Uncertainty Principle to See an Ion Wiggle," 20 June 2019 Meanwhile, other teams are using superfast pulsars to search for gravitational waves, the ripples in space-time that result when massive objects accelerate or collide. Sarah Scoles, Discover Magazine, "Getting to Know Pulsars, the Lighthouses of the Cosmos," 12 June 2019 In 2017, scientists detected gravitational waves, ripples in space-time itself, and light flung off by a colliding pair of neutron stars. National Geographic, "The universe seems to be expanding faster than all expectations," 25 Apr. 2019 But according to Jackson and his team, the correlations in the noise data suggested that LIGO might have detected not gravitational waves but some terrestrial disturbance, perhaps an earthquake. Wired, "Confirmed! Scientists Did See Gravitational Waves (Probably)," 16 Dec. 2018

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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Last Updated

7 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Gravitational wave.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 13 December 2019.

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