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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Gravitational wave scientists win 2017 Nobel Physics Prize for opening 'unseen worlds'

Physics is the second of this year's crop of Nobel Prizes and comes after Americans Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine on Monday

Goran K Hansson (bottom centre), secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, announces the 2017 Nobel Prize winners in Physics - Rainer Weiss, Barry C Barrish and Kip S Thorne (above left to right) - at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm on October 3, 2017. Jessica Gow / EPA
Goran K Hansson (bottom centre), secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, announces the 2017 Nobel Prize winners in Physics - Rainer Weiss, Barry C Barrish and Kip S Thorne (above left to right) - at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm on October 3, 2017. Jessica Gow / EPA

The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three American scientists for their discoveries in gravitational waves which have opened up "unseen worlds".

Sweden's Royal Academy of Sciences announced Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Barry Barish and Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology as the winners on Tuesday.

The waves detected by the laureates resulted from a collision between two black holes about 1.3 billion light-years away. Each light-year measures about 5.88 trillion miles.

On September 15, 2015, they were observed for the very first time.

"Gravitational waves spread at the speed of light, filling the universe, as Albert Einstein described in his general theory of relativity. They are always created when a mass accelerates, like when an ice-skater pirouettes or a pair of black holes rotate around each other," the academy said.

"Gravitational waves are direct testimony to disruptions in space-time. This is something completely new and different, opening up unseen worlds. A wealth of discoveries awaits those who succeed in capturing the waves and interpreting their message."

The laureates played a leading role in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or Ligo, experiment, which resulted in the first observation of gravitational waves.

According to the Royal Academy of Sciences, the Ligo project used a pair of gigantic laser interferometers to measure a change thousands of times smaller than an atomic nucleus, as the gravitational wave passed the Earth.

Mr Weiss, who was born in Germany, was awarded half of the 9-million-kronor (US$1.1m) prize amount, while Mr Thorne and Mr Barish will split the other half.

"The 2017 Nobel Laureates have, with their enthusiasm and determination, each been invaluable to the success of Ligo," the academy said.

"Pioneers Rainer Weiss and Kip S Thorne, together with Barry C Barish, the scientist and leader who brought the project to completion, ensured that four decades of effort led to gravitational waves finally being observed."

Mr Weiss said on Tuesday: "I view this more as a thing that recognises the work of a thousand people."

Physics is the second of this year's crop of Nobel Prizes and comes after Americans Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine on Monday.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be announced on Wednesday, the literature prize on Thursday and the peace prize on Friday.