Scientists published proof this week that. As they orbit one another, supermassive black holes produce shockwaves that warp space and time.
The North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOgrav) Collaboration, led by Dr. Stephen Taylor, a native of Northern Ireland, is one of the teams that made the discovery.
The partial solar eclipse that the 35-year-old saw in the summer of 1999, which also happened to be the 30th anniversary of the first moon landing, is what he attributes to igniting his passion for all things space-related.
According to Dr. Taylor, "the combination of those things and us learning about it at school just really sparked my imagination.".
His love of science, in his words, never left him as he continued his education at Wallace High School in his hometown of Lisburn.
I always found it fascinating, and that definitely had an impact on the GCSE and A-level subjects I selected, he said.
Dr. Taylor obtained work experience at an Oxford laser laboratory while pursuing his A-levels.
There, he met by chance a scientist from Northern Ireland whose work had a significant influence on his later research.
He had the chance to hear Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, who discovered pulsars while a graduate student at Cambridge, speak while he was at Oxford.
Dead stars called pulsars rotate and emit radio signal bursts at incredibly regular intervals.
He claimed, "I went up afterwards spouting the popular science I had read, thinking I knew everything. She gave a fantastic talk.
But, to be honest, she was just genuinely kind and made me laugh. ".
Dr. Taylor and his team would later measure pulsars in this most recent paper.
I definitely didn't hear accents like mine giving these kinds of science interviews or talks, so I think it's really nice that Northern Irish people are on both ends of this, he said.
After finishing his undergraduate studies at Oxford, Dr. Taylor pursued a Ph.D. in gravitational waves at Cambridge.
"At the time, the concept was just an idea. Although there were well-known initiatives like Ligo, the US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, people were more interested in other facets of physics.
However, my guiding principle was that if I'm going to do something, I should enjoy it, and this was what most intrigued me. ".
Dr. Taylor, the first member of his family to attend college, recalled that his parents always pushed him to pursue his passions.
The "Nasa-mad" Dr. Taylor then had the chance to work at the space agency's jet propulsion lab before spending some time at the California Institute of Technology.
As a result, he started to assume leadership positions. He later served as the chair of a working group looking at gravitational waves and was offered a permanent position at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
His group has been examining the frequencies of the signals emitted by pulsars and how gravitational waves affect those frequencies.
Dr. Taylor compared the radio emissions from pulsars to lighthouse light beams. Gravitational waves are evident when the frequency at which they strike Earth changes, as predicted by Einstein.
The orbit of supermassive black holes, he claimed, is the most likely source of these waves.
Although there have been many hints along the way, this is the first concrete proof in this type of data set, which is very exciting. ".
According to Dr. Taylor, these black holes would be billions of times more massive than the sun and sit at the centers of galaxies as a result of the frequencies.
"I never imagined myself taking part in something like this. I never imagined it would reach this point, but working on the physics and math problems was enjoyable, he said.
According to Dr. Taylor, his schools, friends, and family's support were crucial.
"They never erect barriers in the way. In other words, many would tell someone to "catch yourself on" if they said they wanted to work as a theoretical astrophysicist and try to make a significant discovery.
However, nobody ever actually said that. ".
For those working in Dr. Taylor's field, however, things are not always easy.
It's not like in the movies, where a bunch of scientists are gathered around a computer and announce, "We got it; we're in. No "eureka!" moment occurs.
"In this line of work, small victories matter a lot more. Big breakthroughs rarely occur and frequently take a while to materialize. ".
In order to learn more about these black holes and their gravitational effects, Dr. Taylor is eager to work with related projects taking place in other parts of the world.