Black hole bang detected
The most sensitive device ever created has picked up more gravitational waves, and uncovered a new black hole behaviour.
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) has made a third detection of gravitational waves – mind-bendingly small ripples in space and time - marking the latest findings from a window on astronomy that was only opened last year.
The waves were generated when two black holes merged to form a larger black hole, leaving a final black hole some 50 times the mass of our Sun.
The latest detection, called GW170104, is the farthest yet, with the black holes located about three billion light-years away.
“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”, says Professor Matthew Bailes, Director of the new Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav).
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”.
“This is the first time that we have evidence that the black holes may not be aligned, giving us just a tiny hint that pairs of black holes may form in dense stellar clusters,” says researcher Bangalore Sathyaprakash of Penn State University.
“The LIGO detector lets us feel the gravitational wave, and we are on a mission to see the source of the event by looking through powerful telescopes.” says Postdoctoral Fellow Qi Chu from the University of Western Australia and member of the LIGO scientific collaboration and OzGrav.
The data was used to create the video recreation below.