The proof of existence of gravitational waves (oscillations of space and time), the last theory of Albert Einstein that still had to be validated in practice, brought much emotion to the world’s scientific community recently.


Among the researchers who were responsible for this discovery, there are seven Brazilians, six of whom are members of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), in the city of São José dos Campos, São Paulo.


Odylio Denys de Aguiar, Marcio Constâncio Júnior, César Augusto Costa, Allan Douglas dos Santos Silva, Elvis Camilo Ferreira and Marcos André Okada, do Inpe, and Riccardo Sturani, a researcher of the area of Theoretical Physics of the São Paulo State University (IFT-Unesp) worked on this Project, together with a collaborative team of over one Thousand scientists of 15 different countries. A total of 90 universities and research institutions were involved in the search for this historic proof.


This Discovery is due to the LIGO Project (taken from the English abbreviation for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory), which, on 14 September 2015 at 6.51 a.m. (Brasília standard time), successfully detected gravitational waves resulting from an event known as GW 150914 – the collision and merger of two black holes in a galaxy more than 1 billion light-years away from Earth.


Collaboration made the Project feasible

Due to the grandeur of the Project, the thousands of scientists involved are active in smaller groups, studying specific points. In Brazil, the group of researchers at Inpe, led by Odylio Denys de Aguiar, is active in the enhancement of the instruments for vibrational isolation of LIGO and the characterisation of the detectors.


In the meantime, Riccardo Sturani and his team, from IFT-Unesp, are working on modelling – which involves techniques of analysis that can facilitate the detection of gravitational waves, which is a difficult task due to the poor interaction of these with matter – and the analysis of signs from coascent binary star systems.


Even though the observation was made in September, it was necessary to wait a few months so that the collection of data could be completed – a phase that was completed in January. The complete analysis of this Discovery should be published in April.


“This first observation of gravitational waves opens a new window for observing the Universe and also heralds a new era in research in the fields of Astronomy and Astrophysics”, said César Augusto Costa, a researcher from Inpe, in an interview given to Exame magazine.


LIGO is a system which integrates two identical detectors, developed by researchers at MIT and Caltech. Both of these institutions are in the United States, one in Livingston (Louisiana) and the other in Hanford (Washington), which are about 3 thousand kilometres apart.