• Question: does the gravity waves effect the earths shape?

    Asked by yolopolo to Steve on 17 Mar 2016.
    • Photo: Steve Marsden

      Steve Marsden answered on 17 Mar 2016:

      Indeed they do, but only by a minute amount.

      The LIGO experiment which detected gravitational waves, did so by measuring four, 4 km long regions on the Earth. As the gravitational wave passed over the Earth it was stretched in one direction, and compressed in another. LIGO was able to measure this change in shape.

      So how much are we being contorted? Well, over one of the 4 km long lengths that LIGO was measuring, the length altered by 1/100,000,000 of the width of an atom!