On Thursday, UF announced that professors and students helped discover gravitational waves.

Scientists with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory have detected the existence of gravitational waves, which are ripples in space predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916. The machine scientists used, called a laser interferometer, detected two black holes had clashed into each other, causing a ripple-effect in space.

A group of UF graduate students and faculty built parts of the detecting machine, which was managed and used by LIGO. UF has been involved with the organization since its founding, said David Tanner, a UF physics professor and LIGO group member.

Tanner said because of the experiment scientists could determine where the black holes were.

“These two signals were two black holes orbiting each other at 20 times a second,” he said.

The event occurred a billion light years away from Earth, Tanner said.

“It took a billion years for life to develop enough intelligence to build such an interferometer, and we did it just in time,” he said.

Ryan Goetz, a UF physics graduate student, said he’s spent four years working on the LIGO project.

He said the project will allow humans to look at the universe in new ways.

“It doesn’t change anything we know currently,” the 26-year-old said. “It does change the way that astronomy will be happening from here on out, which I think is probably more exciting than just learning some new fact about the universe.”

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