Third gravitational wave detection gives hints on dark matter and black holes

Third gravitational wave detection gives hints on dark matter and black holes

In 2015 the same 1,000-strong team of scientists detected gravitational waves from black holes 1.3 billion and 1.4 billion light-years away.

Once is chance, twice is coincidence, thrice is a pattern.

It's the third time since 2015 that such a collision has been observed via an instrument called LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory), which consists of a pair of detectors, one in Hanford, Washington, USA, and the other in Livingston, Louisiana, each created to measure gravitational waves from distant cosmological events.

While LIGO made its latest groundbreaking detection on January 4, the Virgo interferometer in the European Union confirmed the data, showing a similar observation from their lab in Italy.

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"We suspended the run in May so we can make improvements on the detectors, improving their sensitivity", said Thomas Corbitt, an assistant professor of Physics and Astronomy at LSU. Italy's Virgo detector, too, is close to completion, which will join in LIGO's hunt for gravitational waves. It is of great interest to the scientific community that the black holes, having masses almost 31 times and 19 times the sun's. "LIGO's first three detections now already have established that there likely is a population of black holes in the universe with masses greater than previously expected", said Hanna. They act as outrageously oversized rulers to measure the stretching of spacetime caused by gravitational waves. "LIGO is making the most direct and pristine observations of black holes that have ever been made, and we're taking large strides in our understanding of how and where these black holes are formed". This can shed light on the way the black holes might have formed. Two times the mass of Earth's sun was converted directly into energy in a fraction of a second. The black holes-which will ultimately spiral together into one larger black hole-are illustrated to be orbiting one another in a plane. The black holes in the first and second detections were located 1.3 billion and 1.4 billion light-years away, respectively.

Scientists compare readings from the two detectors to make sure that what they're seeing are true gravitational waves rather than one-off anomalies. But thanks to LIGO's observations, they now know that heavy stellar-mass black holes can exist - probably in cases where the stars have low metallicity.

The gravitational wave signal from GW170104 was detectable for about 920 ms in LIGO's observation band between about 20 Hertz and 265 Hertz for 29 gravitational-wave cycles.

The details of the latest detection, made on January 4 this year, were published today (June 1) in the journal Physical Review Letters. "While LIGO is uniquely suited to observing these types of events, we hope to see other types of astrophysical events soon, such as the violent collision of two neutron stars".

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Now, with three black hole mergers under their belts, scientists are looking forward to a future in which gravitational wave detections become routine. According to Einstein's theory of gravity, the general theory of relativity, massive objects bend the fabric of space and create ripples when they accelerate - for example, when two objects orbit one another. Do they always have to form in pairs, or can they form separately and link up later in life?

GW170104 hints that at least one of the two black-hole spins might be misaligned with the binary orbit, mildly favoring the formation theory of dense stellar clusters. LIGO partners with the Virgo Collaboration, a consortium including 280 additional scientists throughout Europe supported by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN), and Nikhef, as well as Virgo's host institution, the European Gravitational Observatory.

The first collision resulted in a single black hole with a mass of around 62 times that of our Sun, while the second resulted in a comparative lightweight, coming in at just 21 solar masses.

"It is remarkable that humans can put together a story, and test it, for such odd and extreme events that took place a billion years ago and a billion light-years distant from us", he said.

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"Each detection has offered much more than just a 'sighting, '" National Science Foundation Director France Cordova said Wednesday in a news release. Scientists have seen supermassive black holes that dominate entire galaxies, as well as small black holes that form after stars die. The black hole is believed to weigh as much as 1 billion Suns-which means it must have received quite a kick, to set it in motion (its speed was determined to be around 5 million miles per hour, or a bit less than 1 percent of the speed of light). LIGO is just starting to piece together this puzzle.

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