The discovery provides new insights into the mysterious nature of black holes and, potentially, dark matter. Chad Hanna, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and astrophysics and Freed Early Career Professor at Penn State, served as the co-chair of LIGO's Compact Binary Coalescence Group, which detected the three gravitational waves discovered thus far.
A huge global team of scientists have just announced the discovery of yet another gravitational wave signal sent out by the violent collision of two black holes circling each other 3 billion light-years away and felt on Earth on January 4.
"It is remarkable that humans can put together a story, and test it, for such unusual and extreme events that took place a billion years ago and a billion light-years distant from us", he said. The Italy-based VIRGO detector is nearly in place and will join in to collect data later in 2017, a spokesperson for VIRGO said, at a tele-conference organised by LIGO collaboration.
Ligo was rebooted on November 30 2016 and now, scientists have revealed it detected gravitational waves a little over one month later.
LIGO has also teamed up with Virgo Collaboration, which is sponsoring a third observatory under construction near Pisa, Italy. Its observations are carried out by twin detectors in the US - one in Hanford, Washington, and the other in Livingston, Louisiana.
This third detection - which comes after the first in September 2015 and the second in December 2015 - appears to be the result of two black holes merging and forming a new black hole about 49 times the mass of the sun.
Collaborating scientists of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory - better known as LIGO - reported that they found gravitational waves generated by the merger in a paper placed online June 1 in the journal Physical Review Letters. Even with colliding black holes, however, the ripples are mind-bogglingly small: When a gravitational wave passes by, each 2.5-mile-long arm of the L-shaped LIGO detectors gets stretched and squeezed by a distance equivalent to just 1/1000th of the width of a proton.
That's when the ghosts of two dead stars - black holes dozens of times more massive than our sun - merged in a far-off corner of the universe.
The recent detection, called GW170104, is the farthest yet, with the black holes located about three billion light-years away.
While the data isn't detailed enough to rule it out, this means it's more likely that the black holes were rotating in a plane other than that of their orbit. In this event, the spins of the individual black holes making up the merger are probably not aligned along the same direction.
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It's possible that CNN's story is simply false - itself a fabrication of administration officials looking to tarnish Comey's reputation.
Dynamical capture runs counter to a model called "common envelope evolution", in which binary black holes evolve together, with spins that are aligned with their orbital angular momentum.
Both of these black holes were much more massive than our sun. In this case, the black holes can spin in any direction relative to their orbital motion. 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.
Before LIGO, astronomers didn't know that so-called solar mass black holes, which form when stars die, could reach such extreme sizes. Both of those findings were the result of binary black hole mergers as well. For the first time, researchers at the University of Toronto led the effort to characterize the properties of the colliding black holes - a task that rotates between participating teams in the collaboration in two-week shifts during the experiment's round-the-clock monitoring of the heavens.
If the two black holes are not spinning in the same way, that hints at the way they met.
"Gravitational waves are distortions in the metric of space that we live in", said Michael Landry, a LIGO physicist at California Institute of Technology, during a news conference on Wednesday.
"We're extremely excited to have this detection of binary black hole mergers", Landry said. One of the ideas under the theory of relativity forbids the notion that gravitational waves are affected by dispersion - in which the signals will travel at different speeds as they move through certain mediums, the way light does.
All of this directly puts Einstein's theory of relativity- first proposed almost a century ago - to the test.
"It looks like Einstein was right - even for this new event, which is about two times farther away than our first detection", said Laura Cadonati, an associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The great distance of this merger also provides the most rigorous test to date for a specific part of Einstein's general theory of relativity - the lack of dispersion in gravitational waves. After the first run, the machine was shut down and improvements were made to improve the sensitivity.
The current data gathering run will go until August, and there's the expectation that the European VIRGO detector will join it in taking data before the summer is over.
These ripples in space-time can only be detected by powerful instruments.