gravitational waves
Gravitational waves are distortions, or 'ripples', in the fabric of space-time – but their discovery has remained elusive for 100 yearsiStock


An announcement about the search for gravitational waves is due to take place at the National Science Foundation. It is thought the scientists from Caltech, MIT and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) will announce the waves have been detected – 100 years after Albert Einstein first predicted their existence in his general theory of relativity.

A livestream of the event is available on the National Science Foundation's YouTube channel. Alternatively you can watch the announcement live online below.

Rumours about the potential detection of gravitational waves emerged in January, with physicists tweeting that an announcement was due. An email from Clifford Burgess, a theoretical physicist at McMaster University in Hamilton, also pointed to the find in an email entitled "Inside scoop ... Nobel prize is coming someone's way".

In it, he said "the LIGO rumour seems real" and that people who have seen the purported study say it shows gravitational waves from a binary black hole merger. "Apparently the signal is spectacular .... Woohoo! (I hope)," he added.

Further details about the discovery have been kept quiet but LIGO announced a press conference to present its findings earlier in February. They said it was to "provide an update on the search for gravitational waves".

"This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first publication of Albert Einstein's prediction of the existence of gravitational waves," LIGO said. "With interest in this topic piqued by the centennial, the group will discuss their ongoing efforts to observe gravitational waves."

What are gravitational waves?

Gravitational waves are distortions, or 'ripples', in the fabric of space-time. Einstein said space-time is not a void but a four-dimensional fabric that can change as objects move through it. He said massive accelerating objects, such as black holes and neutron stars, would disrupt space-time so that waves of distorted space would radiate from the source.

These ripples were predicted to travel at the speed of light and contain information about where they came from. However, by the time they reached Earth they would be so tiny they would be nigh-impossible to detect – until now...