Astronomers have discovered 39 new gravitational wave events in just 6 months

30 Octobre, 2020, 10:08 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Astronomers have discovered 39 new gravitational wave events in just 6 months

Thrane, Berry and Galaudage were part of the global team of astronomers from the LIGO and Virgo collaborations, who worked on an intense analysis of the latest observing run, completed in March this year.

"Gravitational-wave space science is progressive - uncovering to us the shrouded lives of dark openings and neutron stars", said cosmologist Christopher Berry of Northwestern University, an individual from the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC). The 39 events averaged more than one per week of observing.

Their results are described in a trio of papers on the pre-print server arXiv.

LIGO uploaded a preprint on its website while waiting for peer review. Eventually, this wave washes across the earth and pings detectors in the US (LIGO) and Italy (Virgo). The latest events add to the 11 already confirmed events, taking the total number of events to 50.

Gravitational waves are waves in spacetime that are caused by collisions between black holes and other extreme cosmic phenomena. "In just five years we have gone from not knowing that binary black holes exist to having a catalog of over 40". The third observing run has yielded more discoveries than ever before. "Combining them with earlier discoveries paints a handsome picture of the universe's rich variety of binaries". But as Thrane says, "in reality we think there are probably a lot more double neutron stars merging out there than there are double black holes".

The bevy of data, which includes sightings from April to October 2019, suggests that scientists' gravitational wave-spotting skills have leveled up.

According to an official statement, O3a witnessed interesting events such as "the second ever gravitational-wave observation consistent with a binary neutron star merger, the first events with unequivocally unequal masses, and a very massive black hole binary with a total mass of about 150 times the mass of the Sun". One had the mass of six Suns, the other that of nine Suns. Gravitational wave detections have revolutionized the way we see the universe and helped scientists understand some of the most mysterious objects in space. Over time, they lose their mass and eventually die, collapsing to form black holes.

Using the set of detections reported in the catalog paper, the researchers conducted detailed analysis by combining everything together. In what they call the "testing general relativity paper", the authors placed constraints on Einstein's theory of general relativity. The theory passed with flying colors, and they updated their best measurements on potential modifications.

Astronomers have discovered 39 new gravitational wave events in just 6 months

The data also yielded surprising results in the size of numerous blackholes detected.

What's more, some of the coalescing black holes seem to be very large and spinning rapidly, says astrophysicist Richard O'Shaughnessy of the Rochester Institute of Technology in NY, a member of the LIGO collaboration.

"There are proposals for next-generation gravitational wave observatories that will basically be able to see to the edge of the Universe", Thrane says, "so I think the coming years are going to be extremely exciting for the field".

In a new preprint paper submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the collaboration examined 47 of the 50 events and analyzed the physical properties of black hole fusions. Kimball is co-advised by Berry and Vicky Kalogera, the principal investigator of Northwestern's LSC group, director of CIERA and the Daniel I. Linzer Distinguished University Professor of Physics and Astronomy in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

"With so many black holes to study, we can start to answer deep questions about how these systems came to merge".

It is believed that GW 190425 originated from a collision between two neutron stars, only the second one was detected (the first was in August 2017). "Has changed our ability to do so, and as detectors improve, the speed of discovery will accelerate".

Scientists have presented GWTC-2, or "Gravitational-Wave Transient Catalog 2", that has information about the gravitational-wave detections made by LIGO and Virgo observatories.

The "catalog" paper is titled "GWTC-2: Compact Binary Coalescences Observed by LIGO and Virgo During the First Half of the Third Observing Run".

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