After an 11-year-long search for the gravitational waves that Einstein predicted as part of his general theory of relativity has found no evidence of the background waves, scientists are now questioning our understanding or galaxies and black holes. The search was carried out using the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s (CISIRO) Parkes telescope.
Scientists have long had strong circumstantial evidence that these gravitational waves exist, but they have never been directly detected. With the Parkes telescope as their tool, the scientists expected to be able to detect a background “rumble” of waves emitting from merging galaxies throughout the universe. However, the scientists failed to discover these waves during their 11 year search bringing into question what scientists thought they knew about black holes.
Einstein’s theory is expected to take hold when galaxies merge and the black holes expected to be at the center of every galaxy merge. The merging black holes were believed to send ripples dubbed gravitational waves through space-time.
So far the General Theory of Relativity has stood up to every test posed against it, the lack of gravitational waves is the last missing piece of the puzzle according to scientists. According to Astronomy, the Parkes telescope was used to monitor a set of “millisecond pulsars.”
Those pulsars throw radio pulses out into space and are like cosmic clocks. The team is able to record the arrival time of the pulses down to ten billionths of a second. A gravitational wave passing between Earth and the pulsars should have changed the distance between them by about 33-feet, slightly changing the time they were received on Earth.
Scientists think that perhaps the reason that no gravitational waves were discovered is due to the fact that the two black holes merge very quickly spending very little time generating gravitational waves.