Popular lecture. The discovery of gravitational waves from a binary black hole system by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration is a milestone in the history of science. In the next few years, the LIGO detectors will continue to increase their sensitivity, and the worldwide network of gravitational wave detectors will expand to Europe, Japan, and India. We will then be in a unique position to study in detail the properties of ultra compact objects that do not emit light and to follow up those that have electromagnetic counterparts. In this talk, I will discuss the scientific developments that led to the detection of gravitational waves. I will also describe how gravitational wave astronomy will enable us not only to study the astrophysical properties of black holes and neutron stars with unprecedented detail, but also to detect completely unexpected sources of gravitational waves.
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