The collision of two black holes—an event detected for the first time by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO—is seen in this image from a computer simulation. LIGO detected gravitational waves, or ripples in space and time, that were generated as the black holes merged. The simulation shows what the merger would look like if we could somehow get a closer look. Time has been slowed by a factor of 100. The stars appear warped due to the strong gravity of the black holes.

(Credit: SXS)

Scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced last week that they have detected gravitational waves, ripples in space-time predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity.  Via NPR:

Einstein predicted the existence of such ripples, known officially as gravitational waves, in 1916, as part of his general theory of relativity. General relativity re-imagines the gravitational pull between heavy objects like Earth and the sun as a "warping" of space and time. When very heavy objects such as black holes are involved, the theory predicts that gravitational waves will emerge and ripple across the entire universe.

The discovery is being hailed as a major breakthrough in understanding the universe. It also opens a new window on the study of black holes. Julie Comerford, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder who specializes in black holes, spoke with Colorado Matters' host Ryan Warner about the discovery's significance.

Watch how gravitational waves travel more than a billion light years to reach Earth:

LIGO scientist David Reitze takes us on a 1.3 billion year journey that begins with the violent merger of two black holes in the distant universe. The event produced gravitational waves, tiny ripples in the fabric of space and time, which LIGO detected as they passed Earth on September 14, 2015.

Credit: LIGO/SXS/R. Hurt and T. Pyle