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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Other physicists have considered changing Einstein’s equations for general relativity altogether, but most of those attempts were ruled out by measurements from LIGO’s pioneering observations of gravitational waves. Briley Lewis, Popular Science, 20 Mar. 2023 Since 2015, nearly 100 gravitational wave events have been recorded over the course of three observing runs by Virgo and its US counterpart LIGO. WIRED, 9 Jan. 2023 Gravity Spy needs volunteers to characterize glitches and false signals in the extremely sensitive instruments used to detect gravitational wave events. Alison Klesman, Discover Magazine, 23 Dec. 2021 The gravitational wave event was named GW190521. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 2 Sep. 2020 High-energy events, like the merging of neutron stars, often produce X-ray afterglows, as well as gamma-ray bursts and gravitational wave signals. Claire Bugos, Discover Magazine, 23 June 2021 In 2016, astronomers began operating a gravitational wave detector called LIGO that can measure the way the universe rumbles when two distant black holes collide. The Physics Arxiv Blog, Discover Magazine, 13 May 2021 Chen can use a merger’s gravitational wave signal to calculate the distance from Earth to those neutron stars. WIRED, 13 Feb. 2023 But there have been many more gravitational wave detections that are black hole merger candidates, which scientists are working to confirm. Erika K. Carlson, Discover Magazine, 15 Nov. 2019 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'gravitational wave.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1906, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of gravitational wave was in 1906

Dictionary Entries Near gravitational wave

Cite this Entry

“Gravitational wave.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 May. 2023.

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