Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves for the Third Time

It was made on January 4 this year, when an worldwide research team picked up the infinitesimal wobble produced by two black holes, 3 billion light-years away, spiralling towards each other and eventually merging to form a bigger black hole 50 times the mass of the Sun.

It was the third confirmed detection of coalescing black holes detected so far by the USA -led Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, a project made up of two observing stations, one near Hanford, Washington, and the other 1,800 miles away near Livingston, Louisiana, and hundreds of scientists around the world. Before the start of the first Advanced LIGO run, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration had chose to test its ability to detect gravitational waves by injecting signals in the detector that only a few people knew about. They are triggered by massive celestial objects that crash and merge, setting off ripples through space and across time.

The third event, a specific statement shared with TOI read: "was produced by the merger of two black holes, 31 and 19 times as massive as the Sun, forming a larger black hole of about 49 solar masses".

Today's announcement was made by scientists from the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration, an worldwide team working to bring a third gravitational wave detector, Virgo, online this summer in Italy. The third detection, called GW170104 and made January 4, 2017, is described in a new paper accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters. 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.

The gravitational wave signal was produced from the collision of black holes. "Whether you talk about gravity on Earth, or something where the gravitational potential is a billion times greater, general relativity still describes how those gravitational waves are generated and how those objects behave gravitationally".

The LIGO team has done extensive modeling of different mergers, and can match the curves in the data to the properties of the black holes in various models. "After this detection, our estimation of the rate at which black holes merge within LIGO's observable volume is about the same as before", Sathyaprakash said. "We now have three solid detections, and these provide our first hints about the diversity of black hole systems in the universe".

The gravitational waves are detected by fitting one of a large number of theoretical "templates" to the data. Broadly speaking, there are two ways that binary black hole systems form: They began as an isolated pair of stars (think the dual Tatooine sunset in "Star Wars") that collapsed, or the black holes collapsed independently in a dense star cluster. This supports the theory which says that black holes form independently in a star cluster, then sink to the centre of the cluster and eventually merge. Because we're comfortable and confident that our instruments and analyses really work, we're really now doing gravitational wave astronomy.

More than a 1,000 scientists from the Ligo Scientific Collaboration were involved in the project along with an additional 280 researchers from the European-based Virgo Collaboration. Letizia Sammut, Postdoctoral Researcher at Monash UniversityOne of the most exciting possibilities of gravitational wave astronomy is the detection of gravitational waves from the very early universe nearly immediately after the Big Bang!

Data from the first detected black-hole merger (GW150914), recorded in 2015, suggested that the spins of both black holes were aligned with the orbital angular momentum.

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PhD student Ms Ling Sun and Professor Andrew Melatos from the University of Melbourne's School of Physics are part of the global discovery team and members of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave (OzGrav).

In all three cases, each of the twin detectors of LIGO observed gravitational waves from the tremendously energetic mergers of black hole pairs.

RIT members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration include O'Shaughnessy, Campanelli, Lousto, Yosef Zlochower, John Whelan, Hans-Peter Bischof, James Healy, Brennan Ireland, Jacob Lange, Daniel Wysocki, Andrew Williamson, Yuanhao Zhang and Monica Rizzo. Another will be LIGO India, a collaboration with Indian scientists to create a third point in the LIGO system, now planned to commence operation in 2024.

When two black holes spiral toward each other, they also spin on their own axes.

It was not a given that LIGO would be listening when the signal from the black holes arrived.

Scientists propose that black holes come together later in life within crowded stellar clusters.

Gravitational waves are like the ripples on water.

If the laser beam in each vacuum tube travels exactly the same distance before it is recombined, the LIGO detectors do not "see" anything. "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".

The LIGO Laboratory is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and operated by Caltech and MIT, which conceived and built the observatory. But this summer a third detector will join the mix: the Virgo detector in Italy.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)

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