Astronomers detect more of Einstein's ripples in space
Astronomers detect more of Einstein's ripples in space
LIGO physicists eyeball a new gravitational wave
The third time's the charm
02 June, 2017, 03:00
The black holes identified in January were slightly smaller than those in the first detection, but they were much farther away, according to David Shoemaker, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and spokesman for LIGO, an global collaboration involving more than 1,000 researchers. Not only does the new detection reinforce LIGO's capabilities and previous detections, it also provides clues about how these black hole systems form and just how common they are. Because of this global collaboration, dozens of researchers co-authored the findings, published Thursday in the journal Physical Review Letters. The two black holes appear to have held 31.2 and 19.4 solar masses respectively, and when they coalesced the new singularity weighed in at about 49 solar masses. In this scenario, the black holes can spin in any direction relative to their orbital motion.
They are believed to form when massive stars run out of nuclear fuel at the end of their lives. The result is a city-size ball of neutrons with the density of an atomic nucleus. In that time their energy loss rate (luminosity) is greater than all the stars in the observable universe put together. The breakthrough LIGO paper prominently cites 2005 landmark research done by Campanelli and her team on binary black hole mergers. In the second detection (GW151226), recorded a year ago, there is some evidence that the spin of one of the black holes could be at an angle to the orbital angular momentum - but still have a component in the direction of the orbital angular momentum. "This means that we should expect to see one binary black hole merger event per day once LIGO's design sensitivity is reached".
This is the first time that we have evidence that the black holes may not be aligned, giving us just a tiny hint that pairs of black holes may form in dense stellar clusters.
In that case, the spins would be more randomly oriented.
The senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said LIGO Livingston and LIGO Hanover, in Washington state, both detected the waves on January 4.
Simulation of a black-hole merger consistent with LIGO's third observation.
As with the first two cases, an worldwide team of researchers, including British scientists, detected the phenomenon while observing two black holes colliding to form a larger black hole - a century after Albert Einstein predicted their existence. Through looking at the signal from these two merging black holes, for example, scientists were able to figure out their masses and the general part of the sky where they formed. Other events that could create detectable gravitational waves are supernovae (exploding stars) and neutron-star mergers. But detecting them is a major challenge. While the powerful waves in space can warp matter of all kinds, light remains unchanged.
And, 67 scientists from 13 Indian institutions are part of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, under the umbrella of the Indian Initiative in Gravitational-Wave Observations (IndIGO). "Normally we don't think of the nothing of space as having any properties of all". And it doesn't. "We did not discover any dispersion", Sathyaprakash said, "once again failing to prove that Einstein was wrong". "Our mission is to fight the fuzziness of gravitational wave detectors by adding more of them in the global network, and by pairing [the detections] with light as soon as possible". Landry compares it to stretching the canvas of a painting.
Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916.
Each LIGO observatory features a pair of 2.5-mile-long vacuum tubes arranged in an L shape in which precisely tuned laser beams flash back and forth between multiple mirrors that effectively increase the distance each beam travels to almost 1,000 miles. But that was enough to change the pattern of the laser light where the two beams were recombined.
Image comparing the distance and mass of the three black hole merger events detected so far
If the laser beam in each vacuum tube travels exactly the same distance before it is recombined, the LIGO detectors do not "see" anything.
The gravitational waves are detected by fitting one of a large number of theoretical "templates" to the data. But now, "it seems that these are not so uncommon, so clearly there's a way to produce these massive black holes", says physicist Clifford Will of the University of Florida in Gainesville.
There are only two LIGO laboratories in the world, both located in the US.
And that's precisely what the LIGO researchers found in the three confirmed cases to date.
The second came shortly after, in December 2015, and was a distance of 1.4 billion light-years.
"We're starting to gather real statistics on binary black-hole systems", says Keita Kawabe of Caltech, who is based at the LIGO Hanford Observatory.
The first Advanced LIGO observing run lasted about four months, ending in January of 2016.
And there's always a chance a nearby supernova or merger might occur, one that would give space a major shake. We would need an electromagnetic signal.
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