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The Journey of a Gravitational Wave I: GWs Cast No Shadows!

22 Jul 2012, 21:45 UTC
The Journey of a Gravitational Wave I: GWs Cast No Shadows!
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What happens to a gravitational wave between when it is produced and when LIGO can detect it? It turns out not much, which makes it a key new medium in which to observe the Universe!In order to make this information more digestible, I will address one aspect of a gravitational wave's journey through space. Today's topic discusses how the Universe is essentially transparent to a gravitational wave. Future editions will discuss how matter can bend gravitational waves (gravitational lensing) and how the expanding Universe can stretch out (redshift) gravitational waves. GRAVITATIONAL WAVES CAST NO SHADOWS:First, let's think about what happens to light. As light travels through the Universe, any time that it encounters other matter, some of the light is absorbed by the matter or reflected away from its original path. The opposite happens for a gravitational wave; it can pass through matter and come out the other side unchanged (although there are some negligible effects)! That means that there is no such thing as a gravitational-wave shadow and nothing can obscure our detection of a gravitational wave!The Spacetime Explanation:But why is this? In a previous post, I described a gravitational wave as a change in the gravitational field moving ...

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