Detection Of Strongest Gravitational Waves From Supermassive Black Holes Within A Decade

Detection Of Strongest Gravitational Waves From Supermassive Black Holes Within A Decade

Detection Of Strongest Gravitational Waves From Supermassive Black Holes Within A Decade

The existence of gravitational waves, which were first predicted by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity about a hundred years ago, was only confirmed only last year. A new research predicts that a collision of two supermassive black holes will generate gravitational waves. This hat-shaped galaxy is large enough that its merging black holes would yield detectable gravitational waves, but not so large that the black holes would merge too quickly.

All of these events were picked up by ground-based facilities like the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the U.S., or the Virgo facility in Italy. These observatories make their detections by beaming lasers down long tunnels and precisely measuring tiny distortions in the beam. Extreme care is taken to remove all possible interference, so that the only way the laser can be affected is when gravitational waves wash over it and physically warp the local fabric of spacetime.

Astronomers, however, would like to also detect far stronger gravitational waves, such as those produced by the merger of supermassive black holes - behemoth black holes whose mass can be millions if not billions of times greater than that of the Sun.

"Observing low-frequency gravitational waves would be akin to being able to hear bass singers, not just sopranos", says Joseph Lazio, co-author of the study. "A difference between when the pulsar signals should arrive, and when they do arrive, can signal a gravitational wave".

These pulsar timing arrays are based on the same principle as LIGO and Virgo. To spot gravitational waves directly for the first time, scientists had to measure a distance change 1,000 times smaller than the width of a proton using interferometers, basically mirrors placed 4 kilometers apart. Importantly, this method could be more tuned towards lower frequency waves.

"By expanding our pulsar timing array over the next ten years or so there is a high likelihood of detecting gravitational waves from at least one supermassive black hole binary", said Chiara Mingareloo, who worked on this research while she was in Caltech. "And since the pulsars we study are about 3,000 light-years away, they act as a galactic-scale gravitational-wave detector". However, for those like massive black holes which merge and create gravitational waves are detected with the help of pulsar time array. These monsters lurk at the center of many galaxies, and so their collisions might mark the grand finale of two galaxies merging into one. Scientists believe that when two galaxies collide, it allows supermassive black holes to move to the heart of the newly formed galaxy where they eventually merge. To figure all this out, the team used data from the 2 Micron All-Sky Survey (2MASS), and combined it with galaxy merger rates pulled from the Illustris simulation project. The most recent observation of a gravitational wave was generated by the merger of two neutron stars, which are the collapsed cores of large stars - they're the smallest and, at the same time, densest stars we know of.

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