New ripples in the cosmic pond put black holes and scientists in a spin—2 June 2017

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) has made a third detection of gravitational waves, ripples in space and time, demonstrating that a new window in astronomy has been firmly opened. As was the case with the first two detections, the waves were generated when two black holes merged to form a larger black hole. In the latest merger, the final black hole was some 50 times the mass of our Sun. The recent detection, called GW170104, is the farthest yet, with the black holes located about three billion light-years away.

Professor Matthew Bailes, Director of the new ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav), said “The event released more energy in its last few orbits than that of rest of the entire universe, yet when the ripples passed the LIGO detector they made it vibrate by just one attometer, or 0.000000000000000001 metres.”

Despite this tiny displacement, the scientists from the LIGO and Virgo scientific collaborations were able to demonstrate the black holes exhibited a property known as ‘spin’.

For OzGrav’s Deputy Director, Professor David McClelland, this latest discovery makes the impetus to continue work on upgrading the LIGO detector even more compelling. “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,” said Professor McClelland.



Media issued by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery.

Image: LIGO’s Gravitational waves detections.
Credit: LIGO Scientific Collaboration/OzGrav.

Original Published Date: 
Friday, June 2, 2017