LIGO opens up New Era of Astronomy by Again Detecting Gravitational Waves

Once again, Albert Einstein’s gravitational waves have been detected directly by astronomers. Both the times the waves were noticed by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO).

Like the first discovery, the signal was from a collision between two black holes, said the LIGO team. Before this, first direct detection of gravitational waves was announced in February this year.

It was a remarkable moment when the ripple was observed for the first time, but another detection of the wave has proved that cosmos is full of binary black holes, said Salvatore Vitale, a researcher in the LIGO team and a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Gravitational waves were first theorized by famous physicist Albert Einstein in 1916. These are ripples in the fabric of space and time throughout the universe. The scientist revealed a century ago that the universe has gravitational waves, but he didn’t observe them directly. These waves were detected directly 100 years after Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The discovery not only proves Einstein right, but also opens the doors for new era of astronomy.

Until recently, astronomers didn’t have enough tools and machinery to detect gravitational waves in space. LIGO spent more than $570 million and about four decades to develop tools that could revolutionize the astronomy sector. Today, the facility allows astronomers to explore universe using a new lens. By studying gravitational waves, scientists could learn more about black holes, which are a mystery for them since a long time.

“As you can imagine, for most of us, these detections have had a very strong impact on our lives, because we’d been waiting for this for a very long time. It’s been an incredible experience, the last few months”, said Lisa Barsotti, a member of LIGO team.

According to a report in Tech Crunch by Emily Calandrelli, “Like the first gravitational wave detected, scientists believe that the signal was created by the collision of two black holes, albeit a completely different binary black hole system than the first.”

“The first event was so beautiful that we almost couldn’t believe it. Now, the fact of having seen another gravitational wave proves that indeed we are observing a population of binary black holes in the universe. We know we’ll see many of these frequently enough to make interesting science out of them.” Salvatore Vitale, MIT research scientist and LIGO team member

Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space and time throughout the universe and were theorized by Albert Einstein over 100 years ago. They’re caused by extreme, cataclysmic events that occur in outer space – like two black holes colliding into each other.

“The LIGO collaboration announced the detection of a pair of merging black holes, a 14 solar mass black hole inspiraling and coalescing with an 8 solar mass black hole, only the second gravitational wave event ever seen. While some controversial evidence existed that the first black hole-black hole merger produced a gamma-ray burst, those results were hotly disputed, with advocates on both sides eagerly awaiting the results from the second merger,” according to a news report published by Forbes.

On the other hand, merging black holes are anticipated to have no such analogue; without a dense collection of matter outside of an event horizon, an inspiraling event shouldn’t produce high-energy radiation, even at the moment of merger. Sure, black holes may have accretion disks surrounding them, and that may cause matter to collide, accelerate and heat up, but even in that scenario, producing a strong burst of X-ray or gamma radiation doesn’t add up.

A report published in Gizmodo said, “For the second time this year, physicists at the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Waves Observatory (LIGO) are giddy with excitement. They’ve just confirmed the second detection of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime proposed by Albert Einstein a century ago. It seems we’ve officially entered the age of gravitational wave astronomy.”

The discovery was announced this afternoon at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Diego, CA, and has been accepted for publication in Physical Review Letters.

“Just the fact that we’ve now seen more than one [gravitational wave source] is very exciting,” said MIT’s David Shoemaker, who led the Advanced LIGO construction program. “It takes us out of the ‘gee whiz, could it be true?’ mindset to yes, this is a tool that we can use.”

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