Once is chance, twice is coincidence, thrice is a pattern.
In the analysis following the detection event, researchers concluded that the data was in agreement with Albert Einstein's predictions of general relativity, something made more than 100 years ago.
While LIGO made its latest groundbreaking detection on January 4, the Virgo interferometer in the European Union confirmed the data, showing a similar observation from their lab in Italy. The theorists who back this idea say that it could help to explain the unusually high masses of the black hole binary systems that LIGO has detected so far.
The detection came about a month into an observation run that began on 30 November, following a almost year-long shutdown of the detectors for maintenance and sensitivity upgrades - although the improvements that followed the upgrades were less dramatic than the team had hoped. "In the latest merger, the final black hole was some 50 times the mass of our Sun".
That's when the massive ghosts of two dead stars - black holes dozens of times more massive than our sun - merged in a far off corner of the universe. Einstein's theories forbid this from happening to gravitational waves, and so far LIGO's measurements have yet to contradict them. This could indicate that the pair of black holes formed not from a binary star system, but from two independent black holes that randomly came together in a dense primordial star cluster. Although more observations with LIGO are needed to say anything definitive about the spins of binary black holes, scientists said early data offers clues about how these pairs may form. Scientists say black holes can spin in any direction.
"These are the most powerful astronomical events witnessed by human beings", Michael Landry, head of LIGO's Hanford, Wash., observatory, said during a news conference May 31 announcing the discovery. These templates model how the detectors will react to the passing waves from different mass black holes. The second detection revealed a black hole that was 21 times the size of our sun.
This 3-D projection of the Milky Way galaxy onto a transparent globe shows the probable locations of three black-hole merger events, plus a fourth possible detection at lower significance (LVT151012, green). The third has an estimated distance of approximately 3 billion light-years away.
Scientists detect Einstein gravitational waves for a third time
Scientists have detected a gravitational wave for the third time - and might get a peek at the mysteries of black holes.
"We're really moving from novelty to a new observational science", said Massachusetts Institute of Technology astrophysicist David Shoemaker.
Together they make up the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (Ligo). Then, traveling at the speed of light, this wrinkle in space-time passed through LIGO's second detector in Livingston, Louisiana, just a fraction of a second later. Because of this worldwide collaboration, dozens of researchers co-authored the findings, published Thursday in the journal Physical Review Letters. The next big class of events would be binary neutron star mergers - in part because these events could be seen with both LIGO and traditional telescopes.
With a combination of relativistic velocities, huge magnetic fields and densities beyond that of an atomic nucleus, neutron stars are expected to emit gravitational waves of sufficient amplitude to be detectable by Advanced LIGO. Do they always have to form in pairs, or can they form separately and link up later in life? The shown black holes are spinning, and angular momentum is exchanged among the two black holes and with the orbit. Typically, stellar winds steadily blow away mass as a star ages, leading to a smaller black hole. "A lot remains to be learned - this is an exciting time for the new era of gravitational-wave astrophysics!" say Bruce Allen, Alessandra Buonanno, directors at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, and Karsten Danzmann, director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics and at the Institute for Gravitational Physics of the Leibniz Universität Hannover. "It is remarkable that humans can put together a story, and test it, for such unusual and extreme events that took place billions of years ago and billions of light-years distant from us". "The entire LIGO and Virgo scientific collaborations worked to put all these pieces together".
LIGO is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and operated by MIT and Caltech, which conceived and built the project.
"The black holes are not necessarily lined up", said Professor Scott, of the Australian National University, one of several Australian universities involved in the research.
LIGO has also teamed up with Virgo Collaboration, which is sponsoring a third observatory under construction near Pisa, Italy.
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