A wave-like motion in a gravitational field, produced when a mass is accelerated or otherwise disturbed. Gravitational waves travel through spacetime at the speed of light, and their amplitude is proportional to the rate of acceleration of the body producing them. The strongest sources are those with the strongest gravitational fields although the waves, like the force of gravity itself, would be very weak. Gravitational waves have not yet been observed directly. However, the decay in the orbital period of the double pulsar J0737–3039AB is attributed to loss of energy through gravitational waves. Short-period cataclysmic binaries (orbital periods less than about two hours) are also believed to evolve to shorter orbital periods as a result of the emission of gravitational waves.
Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics.