LIGO detects gravitational waves for third time

02 June, 2017, 02:06 | Author: Lorena Waters
  • LIGO snags another set of gravitational waves

LIGO made the first-ever direct observation of gravitational waves in September 2015 and the second detection in December 2015.

There are now two primary theories about binary black hole formation: The first is that a pair of black holes is formed when a pair of stars explodes.

For the third time, physicists have detected a gravitational wave: a tiny ripple in the fabric of space-time.

The detection came about a month into an observation run that began on 30 November, following a almost year-long shutdown of the detectors for maintenance and sensitivity upgrades - although the improvements that followed the upgrades were less dramatic than the team had hoped.

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors in the USA have detected yet another merger of two black holes on January 4, 2017.

This most recent detection involved two black holes about 49 times the mass of our sun. Then, a little more than a month later, they captured the disruption of space and time that signals the merging of two black holes.

Of the three different mergers of paired, or binary, black holes now observed by LIGO - something never before detected, and even doubted until this by some theorists - this latest collision occurred more than twice as far away in the universe as the previous two. During the machine's downtime, an upgrade made to its Livingston detector increased the distance it would be able to "see" during the first set of observations. It is possible, members of the LIGO team said during Wednesday's conference, that future discoveries could include merging neutron stars - collisions between the dense remnants of spent stars, the size of a city with the mass of a sun.

By studying gravitational waves, scientists now have access to a brand new way to understand the universe. In this scenario, the black holes can spin in any direction relative to their orbital motion.

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Scientists are hoping that the discovery of a second set of gravitational waves, nearly simu...

"We have further confirmation of the existence of stellar-mass black holes that are larger than 20 solar masses-these are objects we didn't know existed before LIGO detected them", MIT's David Shoemaker said in a statement.

What colliding black holes might look like to an observer. The black holes in the first and second detections were located 1.3 and 1.4 billion light-years away.

In the other model, massive black holes court each other in huge swarms of stars known as globular clusters.

That result fits neatly into a gap between the two earlier detections and suggests that "black holes exist in a variety of sizes", Dr. Pfeiffer said. Furthermore, the spin-axes of the black holes change, as visible through the colored patch on each black hole horizon, which indicates the north pole.The lower part of the movie shows the two distinct gravitational waves (called "polarizations") that the merger is emitting into the direction of the camera. The finding represents a breakthrough in black hole research. Of course, a network of detectors will improve the scope of "Gravitational Wave Astronomy", the era of which has just been ushered in by the third detection of gravitational waves from a binary black hole merger. These cosmic events are rare, but produce a lot of energy, including gravitational waves. But if the black holes instead find one another in the chaos of a star cluster, they could spin any which way. "Our quest to extend LIGO to detect other types of violent events, such as those from neutron stars, drives us to develop new technologies such as quantum squeezing optical devices to reach further into Einstein's Universe".

They did not see evidence of dispersion, but if they had, it would have contradicted Einstein's theory. In a binary system, each of the two black holes spin individually as they spiral around one another.

"It is remarkable that humans can put together a story, and test it, for such unusual and extreme events that took place billions of years ago and billions of light-years distant from us", Shoemaker said in a statement.

LIGO is primarily funded through the National Science Foundation, and at a cost of $30 million per year, is one of the most expensive experiments bankrolled by the organization. Financial support for the Advanced LIGO project was led by NSF with Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council) and Australia (Australian Research Council) making significant commitments and contributions to the project. They collaborate with computer scientists at Northwestern's Image and Video Processing Laboratory, the Zooniverse team at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, human-computer interaction experts at Syracuse University and LIGO scientists at California State University, Fullerton.


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