Australian scientists played major role in discovery of gravitational waves

Australian scientists and researchers played a significant part in the discovery of gravitational waves, being described as a one in 100 year event.

"We've done it".

Australian scientists have been hunting for decades for gravitational waves, or ripples in space and time first hypothesised by Albert Einstein a century ago.

On Friday, the world learnt more than 1000 excited scientists from 17 countries, including Australia, had detected a ripple for the first time.

So what exactly have they done?

The collaborative science project, called LIGO and based in the United States, detected a wave on September 14 that was created 1.3 billion years ago when two black holes crashed into each other.

The signal lasted one tenth of a second and could only be picked up by "superb" sensitive technology.

It means scientists can begin to look at the universe differently.

"I'm pretty sure you all know by now, but I want to say it. We've done it," Australian National University professor David McClellan said at an event at parliament house in Canberra on Friday.

"This is to me a once in a 100 year, a moment in physics history which will be remembered for thousands of years."

Australian researchers played a substantial role in the discovery, with academics from several universities involved in the technology development and data analysis.

The CSIRO developed multi-layer coating for "ultra-high-performance optical mirrors", which the science body says is the most uniform and precise ever made.

"We really are world leaders in this area, and are thrilled to play a part in this discovery," science director of CSIRO manufacturing Cathy Foley said.

"As a physics enthusiast, you dream of days like this"

Australia's chief scientist Alan Finkel said the discovery was the most significant in cosmology in his lifetime.

"As a physics enthusiast, you dream of days like this," he said on Friday.

Australian scientists involved in the discovery come from University of Western Australia, Adelaide University, the University of Melbourne, Monash University and Charles Sturt University.

They've pledged to continue their work, saying this is merely the beginning.

The ANU's Susan Scott, a researcher in general relativity, reflected on the day she learnt the ripple had been discovered.

It was also the day Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ousted Tony Abbott from the top job in a leadership challenge.

"It was the ultra in exciting," she said at the Canberra event.

"I know which one was more exciting from my point of view."

Liberal senator Zed Seselja said Australian scientists should be proud of their "significant" contribution to the discovery.

The research had been backed by the federal government since 2002, he said.

"It has detected a gravitational wave, a warp in space time that is unimaginably small, created by an astronomical event that is unimaginably powerful," he said in Canberra.

"Seeing gravitational waves allows us to see the universe in a whole new light, the light of gravity, which resonates from the first fraction of a second after the big bang."

Source: AAP