Turns out Albert Einstein was onto something with his speed of light theory.


For the first time, scientists observed two neutron stars colliding and confirmed that gravitational waves, or ripples in space and time, travel at the speed of light. Experts think the collision resulted in a black hole and sent the ingredients for gold and platinum into the universe.


The stars, which have been circling each other for ages, collided about 130 million light years away, outside of our galaxy. Using the new observatories in the U.S. and Italy, scientists were able to measure its effects. NASA spokespeople and others in the space science community took to Facebook to explain their findings on Monday.


“From our combined observations, (we) learned that gravitational waves travel at the speed of light, which is something we had never measured before!” Rachel Hamburg, a master’s student in University of Alabama in Huntsville department of space science, said.

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The waves actually travel at the same rate “within one part in one quadrillion,” Adam Goldstein, a member of NASA’s Postdoctoral program said. The delay between the light and the gravitational waves was less than two seconds — probably because it took a moment for the stars to collide and a black hole to form. Or, it may have taken the photons from the explosion a moment to “escape” from the debris cloud of surrounding material.


The conditions of the explosion were right to produce gold and platinum, said Colleen Wilson-Hodge, a high energy astrophysicist at NASA. The readings weren’t good enough to pick out the “exact signature” of the two metals but scientists do know that star-collisions produce elements heavier than iron.


The space community was buzzing after the findings were announced in October. The discovery was made possible by lasers in the new observatories that measure the miniscule changes in distance between paris of mirrors that are created when gravitational waves “wash” over earth, according to National Geographic.


Since then, the instruments have detected more events in space. Scientists announced the discovery of a new binary black hole merger last week, according to Tyson Littenberg, principal investigator of the LIGO research group at NASA.

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“There are many of these events that will happen, but we can’t pinpoint exactly when or where because we can’t observe them before they merge,”Goldstein said. “We expect to see a few every year now that our instruments have become more sensitive.”

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