• Question: How would gravitational waves affect a planet (maybe a gas planet) or object?

    Asked by Arianna to Daniel, Maggie, Ry, Scott on 15 Nov 2017.
    • Photo: Ry Cutter

      Ry Cutter answered on 15 Nov 2017:

      It would be really difficult to tell, gravitational waves only affect matter by a teeny tiny amount. Like the fraction of a proton small! Because these affects are so small it probably wouldn’t do much… boring!
      But if the planets are really close to source of the gravitational wave, there might be some wacky things happen.

      Gravitational waves cause things to squish and stretch. If a planet were close enough it would behave just like the circle in the gif.
      A gas giant might lose a lot of it’s gas because of this, which would be really nice so we could see what the surface actually looks like! Rocky planets would probably crumble a little bit, but after a million years or so they’d get back to normal.
      Great question,

    • Photo: Maggie Lieu

      Maggie Lieu answered on 15 Nov 2017:

      When a gravitational wave passes through it stretches space in one direction and squashes it in another but since everything is squished and stretched, we wouldn’t notice! so not much!

    • Photo: Scott Melville

      Scott Melville answered on 16 Nov 2017:

      Sadly most gravitational waves are really small – in fact there are tonnes going through you and Earth right now, but you barely feel a thing! If a really REALLY big gravity wave smashed into a planet, then it would be stretched and squeezed and bumped around a bit – but we don’t know of any process which could possible generate such a wave (unless we were under attack by an advanced alien civilisation or something :P)