Finding Gravitational Waves: One Man's Life Goal Realized After Nearly 30 Years | KUOW News and Information

Finding Gravitational Waves: One Man's Life Goal Realized After Nearly 30 Years

Feb 12, 2016
Originally published on February 11, 2016 5:47 pm

Scientists announced Thursday they have found gravitational waves in the fabric of spacetime. One man who leads work at what’s called the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory -- or LIGO -- station on the Hanford site, has been working on this singular project for nearly 30 years.

Fred Raab knew back in the ‘80s that he had to decide: look for these gravitational waves, or do something else with his life?

“I realized that this would happen. And that it would likely happen sometime in my lifetime,” he said. “The thing I was most worried about was someday reading in the New York Times that it had happened and turning down the chance to be a part of it.”

And last September, early on a Monday morning a very clear signal was received by the LIGO stations’ instruments at Hanford and in Louisiana. The waves were made from two black holes crashing together more than a billion years ago.

The scientists poured over the data for months before announcing the discovery and releasing their science this week. Raab said his only other worry was living long enough to see this moment of first discovery -- his white whale.

His team has plenty of discoveries ahead on black holes and dying stars. But Raab said, now it’s time to party like scientists.

All this work was done at LIGO at Hanford and the twin station in Louisiana. Another two stations are starting up in Italy and Japan.

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