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At a conference hosted by the UCLM, a "new era in astronomy" has been heralded with a discovery worthy of the 2017 Nobel Prize.

Alicia Sintes: "In a few years, we will observe gravitational waves virtually every day"

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Alicia Sintes: "In a few years, we will observe gravitational waves virtually every day"


Our human conception of the universe was shaken on the 14th of September 2015 with the first observation of gravitational waves. One of the researchers involved in the discovery worthy of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, Alicia Sintes, stated at the University of Castilla-La Mancha (UCLM), that in a few years these waves will be detected on practically a daily basis, once we have fully entered "a new era of astronomy" whose results have not been foreseen yet.

Gravitational wave: this term became part of the vocabulary of millions of people throughout the world on 11th of February 2016, when scientists from the LIGO observatory announced a discovery from September the previous year, but given the transcendency of this discovery, they had to obtain unequivocal confirmation of it before making any announcements to the media. Indeed, in September 2015, the researchers were able to observe oscillations in space-time produced by an accelerated massive body -in this case the collision of two black holes - one thousand, three hundred million light years away. This discovery, predicted by Einstein in the general theory of relativity, was worthy of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics and heralded " a new era in astronomy" , in the words of one of the scientists involved in the work, Alicia Sintes from Spain.

Sintes, full professor at the Department of Theoretical Physics at the University of the Baleric Islands, visited the University of Castilla-La Mancha (UCLM) today to give a conference on gravitational waves at an auditorium made up of secondary school leavers in the province of Ciudad Real. In statements to the media before her speech, the researcher stressed the significance of the results obtained from successive observations of gravitational waves. To take a case in point, from the information obtained from the waves located in 2017, yesterday, the astronomers announced that for the first time they had detected the birth of a heavy element, strontium to be specific, in space: “heavy metals there are on Earth, such as gold or lead, might come from supernovas, but in reality there haven´t been enough supernovas in the universe to produce them in such quantities. Now, for the first time we have confirmed that heavy elements come from the fusion of neutron stars. In the words of Carl Sagan, we are star dust".

Alicia Sintes, a collaborator in the LIGO international consortium, whose work has also been recognized with the Princess of Asturias Award, has no doubt that " we are at the start of a new age of astronomy". In her view, the study of gravitational waves "will enable us to answer highly important questions in fundamental physics, cosmology and astrophysics such as how the expansion of the universe occurred. Moreover, there will be more information on black holes in star masses or their role in the creation of galaxies may be determined". All these discoveries will speed up when the gravitational waves detector ,LISA, which will be located in space and whose launch has been forecast for the year 2034,will start operating.

Good grounding in physics and astro physics
The researcher, who has visited the Ciudad Real campus in an initiative by the Scientific Culture and Innovation Unit, believes that Spanish researchers in physics and astrophysics are "very well positioned" internationally speaking. What is not so competitive, in her view, is the budget allocated to research, development and innovation: "Spain invests far less than the average spent by countries in the region, which is a pity", she said.

UCLM Communication Office Ciudad Real, 25th of October 2019.

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