Second Confirmed Source of Gravitational Radiation

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This artist’s illustration depicts the merging black hole binary systems for GW150914 (left image) and GW151226 (right image). In this illustration, the black hole pairs are shown together but were actually detected at different times and on different parts of the sky. The images have been scaled to show the difference in black hole masses. In the GW150914 event, the mass of the two black holes were 29 and 36 solar, while in GW151226, the masses of two black holes were 14 and 8 solar masses, respectively. Image credit: LIGO/A. Simonnet.

Audio rendition of Two Black Holes Merging


Since Time immemorial, we have looked up at the night sky with our eyes, and perceived the universe and the world around us using Electromagnetic Radiation. That may be changing now with the news that a second source of Gravity Waves has been detected and confirmed by the LIGO collaboration.

In a previous piece, I described the experiment in detail along with the objects of interest and discovery. The object of interest in this latest discovery, GW151226, is the result of a merger of two black holes, 14 and 8 solar masses respectively. The first discovery, GW150914, was the result of a 29 and 36 solar mass black hole merger. This latest observation was made on 26 December, 2015 at 03:38:53 UTC, when scientists observed gravitational waves — ripples in the fabric of spacetime — for the second time in a year! The discovery was made using both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational – Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA.

For the second time in a year, a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 General Theory of Relativity has been confirmed.  These two discoveries mark the beginning of the new field of gravitational-wave astronomy.

In two related stories, LIGO founders receive the 2016 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics and the SHAW prize in Astronomy:

2 June 2016 — Three founders of LIGO are the recipients of the prestigious Kavli Prize in Astrophysics. The Kavli Foundation announced that Ronald W.P. Drever (Caltech), Kip S. Thorne (Caltech) and Rainer Weiss (MIT) are the 2016 awardees of the $1 million prize. The prize, which is awarded every 2 years, recognizes “scientists for their seminal advances in three research areas,” including Astrophysics, Kavli Prize website states. The three founders of LIGO are being honored for “their ingenuity, inspiration, intellectual leadership and tenacity [which] were the driving force behind [the] epic discovery” of gravitationa waves, the prize citation reads.

31 May 2016 — The three researchers who founded LIGO have been awarded the 2016 Shaw Prize in Astronomy, The Shaw Foundation announced. Ronald W.P. Drever (Caltech), Kip S. Thorne (Caltech) and Rainer Weiss (MIT) are the recipients of the $1.2 million prize, awarded annually. According to the prize citattion, the award recognizes their collective work on “conceiving and designing the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), whose recent direct detection of gravitational waves opens a new window in astronomy, with the first remarkable discovery being the merger of a pair of stellar mass black holes.”

Imagination is more important than knowledge 585px-Albert_Einstein_signature_1934(invert)
An index of all articles in this blog can be found here.

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