Scientists spot rare gravity waves for the third time

Scientists spot rare gravity waves for the third time

Alternatively, they may have formed separately, then come together in the densely packed star clusters in which their parent stars existed.

Maybe that's not as unusual as it sounds. Like the tornadoes, LIGO's observations suggest at least one of the black holes appeared to be spinning in the opposite direction of the collective twirl of the two black holes, which is something that scientists had hypothesized in the past but could not confirm. Both of these detections occurred during the first stretch of time LIGO was operational after a $200 million upgrade called Advanced LIGO.

The details of the latest detection, made on January 4 this year, were published today (June 1) in the journal Physical Review Letters.

This is an important detail that can teach us more about the dynamics of our universe, and so far we can only detect the spins of black holes using the brand new technique of gravitational wave measurements. The observed gravitational waves were generated when two black holes with a combined mass 49 times that of our own sun slammed into each other, jostling the fabric of space and time. Albert Einstein predicted their presence in his general theory of relatively in 1915. LIGO, operated by Caltech and MIT with hundreds of people working around the world, includes two detectors - one in Hanford, Wash., and the other in Livingston, La. - that are capable of measuring a ripple by as little as 1/1,000th of a proton. Each detector has two L-shaped arms, extending out 2.5 miles in each direction.

Despite the huge amounts of energy and time involved in this event, however, the gravitational waves remain hard to detect on Earth - researchers describe their effects on LIGO's arms as a 'shudder, ' though they're much smaller than that. They merged into a black hole whose size is in the middle of the other two merged black hole pairs. 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.

This latest detected black hole merger was smaller and more than twice the distance away, and was still detectable. The black holes-which will ultimately spiral together into one larger black hole-are illustrated to be orbiting one another in a plane. This theory predicts that the speed of a gravitational wave through empty space is independent of the frequency of the wave.

For the non-aligned pairs, scientists instead propose that the duos form when two originally separated black holes converge toward the center of a dense cluster of stars. "Now this third one solidifies LIGO and LIGO's observations as the ultimate tool to see the mass spectrum of black holes in our universe".

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. Kawabe is based at the LIGO Hanford Observatory.

The detections are also answering some seemingly basic questions. But if the black holes instead find one another in the chaos of a star cluster, they could spin any which way. That would imply that the black holes were not born together as stars.

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The collision of a pair of colossal, stellar-mass black holes has made itself heard, almost 3 billion light years away, through a cosmic microphone on Earth. In fact, the LIGO team inferred that the December 2015 detection had a strong probability of aligned spins, contrary to this newest signal.

The gravitational waves are detected by fitting one of a large number of theoretical "templates" to the data. And it doesn't. "We did not discover any dispersion", Sathyaprakash said, "once again failing to prove that Einstein was wrong". Sure enough, when LIGO's scientists looked closely at the data, they saw no sign that the waves were spreading.

LIGO scientist Laura Cadonati, with the Georgia Institute of Technology, said the situation was analogous to "two tornadoes going around each other". The great distance of this merger also provides the most rigorous test to date for a specific part of Einstein's general theory of relativity - the lack of dispersion in gravitational waves. The outer contour for each represents the 90 percent confidence region. Outermost curves indicate 90 percent, while inner curves indicate 10 percent. Presently, LIGO can only measure one of the polarizations and therefore obtains only limited information about the orientation of the binary.

For much of the past year, the LIGO detectors were offline to allow an upgrade.

This finding could favor the formation of some black holes over others. "The machines don't run 24-7", says LIGO research engineer Brian Lantz of Stanford University.

In addition, LIGO's team is looking forward to the completed construction and operation of the Virgo interferometer near Pisa, Italy. Detectors are being planned in India and Japan as well.

A confirmed gravitational wave must be seen by both stations at roughly the same time.

"This is why NSF started providing support for LIGO more than 40 years ago", France Cordova, director of the National Science Foundation, said in a statement.

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