Scientists spot rare gravity waves for the third time

A major worldwide collaboration between the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory in the USA and a similar project in Europe named Virgo has confirmed the successful detection of gravitational waves for the third time in human history.

A third gravitational wave has been detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) after the merging of two black holes galaxy three billion light-years away, scientists say. Many LIGO researchers thought they'd start to see some of those smaller singularities. 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. Scientists say black holes can spin in any direction.

The latest finding solidifies the case for a new class of black hole pairs, or binary black holes, with masses that are larger than researchers believed possible before LIGO.

"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. With three detectors, gravitational wave astronomy is in position to reach for the stars.

Gravitational waves produced by the birth of a massive black hole, a record-breaking billions of light-years from Earth, have been detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO). The LIGO Scientific Collaboration includes more than 1,000 scientists from around the world participate and is primarily funded by the National Science Foundation and agencies in Germany, the United Kingdom and Australia.

This time, the two black holes were unequal in size, one significantly lighter than the other.

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A long time ago in a star cluster far, far away ... two curiously massive black holes collided and became one, unleashing a torrent of energy that kinked the fabric of space-time itself. The three confirmed detections by LIGO (GW150914, GW151226, GW170104), and one lower-confidence detection (LVT151012), point to stellar-mass binary black holes that, once merged, are larger than 20 solar masses. As a pair of black holes spiral around one another, they also rotate, in the same manner planets or moons do.

"It looks like Einstein was right, even for this new event, which is about two times farther away than our first detection", said Laura Cadonati of Georgia Tech and a project scientist. "Also, the data suggests that at least one of the black holes in this binary system might have been spinning in a direction that is not completely aligned with the orbital rotation of the binary, providing potential clues on how these binaries might have formed". That leads, she said, to a delay known as the "hangup effect" that can be seen in the gravitational waveform.

Two primary models have developed to explain how binary pairs of black holes can form. Nevertheless, he says, Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts that space can expand, contract, or vibrate, thereby distorting the medium in which we all live.

The group at IIT-Madras is involved in modelling the gravitational wave sources such as the ones which have been detected by the LIGO detectors so far as well as testing the consistency of the detected gravitational wave signals with the predictions of Einstein's general theory of relativity.

Further, the LIGO-Virgo team was able, through the new observation, to put tighter constraints on the mass of the graviton, the hypothesized particle that supposedly mediates the gravitational force (analogous to the way that the photon, for example, mediates electromagnetic force). But if gravitons did have mass, some of the gravitons produced would travel faster than others. Outermost curves indicate 90 percent, while inner curves indicate 10 percent. With this gravitational wave, the third one detected, that new window is getting larger.

In the gap between LIGO's first run and its second, the team took the opportunity to perform a few upgrades.

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An OzGrav animation depicting the binary black hole merger event GW170104, detected by LIGO. But not before tweaking the precisely honed observatories in Hanford, Wash., and Livingston, La., 3 milliseconds apart on January 4.

In February 2016, LIGO scientists announced the first-ever detection of gravitational waves, which are ripples in the curvature of spacetime caused by a disturbance.

"I want [to capture a gravitational wave] signal that no one has predicted and for which no one has an explanation", Caltech's Landry says. "These are the most powerful astronomical events witnessed by human beings", Landry said.

Stuart Shapiro, who works on computer simulations of gravitational waves at the University of IL at Urbana-Champaign, agrees.

Virgo will be only the first of a series of additional, post-LIGO observatories coming on line in the future.

Scientific and engineering teams at IPR Gandhinagar, IUCAA Pune and RRCAT Indore are actively engaged in the pre-construction activities of LIGO-India. Still another instrument, in Japan, will come on line in "a gradual way", said Shoemaker, over the same time frame. And that network, he suggested, should improve uptime and localization-helping to make routine multi-messenger astrophysics a tangible reality.

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