This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Rainer Weiss, Barry C Barish and Kip S Thorne for their work on constructing Ligo, or the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, and the detection of gravitational waves, the Nobel committee announced on Tuesday.

Ligo is a collaborative project with more than 1,000 researchers from 20 countries. Together, they realised a vision that is almost 50 years old, the committee said. The 2017 Nobel Laureates had “with their enthusiasm and determination, each been invaluable to the success of Ligo”, the committee said.

Gravitational waves, or ripples in the fabric of space-time, spread at the speed of light, filling the universe, as Albert Einstein described in his general theory of relativity. Einstein was convinced it would never be possible to measure them. The committee said the Ligo project’s achievement was using a pair of gigantic laser interferometers to measure the gravitational wave as it passed the Earth. “This is something completely new and different, opening up unseen worlds,” the committee said. “A wealth of discoveries awaits those who succeed in capturing the waves and interpreting their message.”

Pioneers Rainer Weiss and Kip S Thorne, and Barry C Barish, the scientist and leader who brought the project to completion, “ensured that four decades of effort led to gravitational waves finally being observed”, the committee said.

The Nobel Prize for Chemistry will be announced on October 4.

About the winners

Rainer Weiss was born in 1932 in Berlin, Germany. He got his PhD in 1962 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, before becoming a professor of Physics at institute.

Barry C Barish was born in 1936 in Omaha, USA. He got is PhD in 1962 from the University of California, Berkeley, and is a Linde Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

Kip S Thorne, born 1940 in Logan, got his PhD in 1965 from Princeton University, USA. He is a Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

Last year’s winners

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to British scientists David J Thouless from the University of Washington, F Duncan M Haldane from Princeton University and J Michael Kosterlitz, a professor at Brown University for their studies that “revealed the secrets of exotic matter”.