The Atlantic

Gravitational Waves Keep Rolling Past Earth

When new cosmic ripples are detected, astronomers leap into action to try to locate their source.
Source: LIGO / T. Pyle

The stars orbited each other like a pair of dancers, their sequined costumes glowing against a dark stage. Round and round they went, until the distance between them began to shrink. The closer they got, the faster they spun. And then, smack! The stars collided.

About 500 million years later, Mansi Kasliwal’s phone rang in the middle of the night in April. “Dear human,” a robotic voice said when she picked up. “You have received a new gravitational-wave alert.”

The signal from the cosmic dance had reached her at last.

Kasliwal, an astronomy professor at Caltech, jumped out of bed. Gravitational waves are ripples in the very fabric of the universe. It sounds bizarre, but space is elastic, and

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic2 min readPolitics
When Public Schools Rely on Local Property Taxes: Letters
Readers discuss the phenomenon of school districts being isolated from financial resources in their communities.
The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
Trump Didn’t Make the Storm, but He’s Making It Worse
The president didn’t put any of the globe’s authoritarians in office, but he’s encouraged their worst instincts.
The Atlantic4 min read
Sleater-Kinney Lost Its Chaos Before It Lost Its Drummer
Angry though a bit too orderly, The Center Won’t Hold can’t help but be heard in the context of the beloved punk trio becoming a duo.