Record number of new gravitational waves offers game-changing window into universe

9th November, 2021.      //   Space Travel  // 

Illustration of two black holes orbiting each other

Astronomers have detected a record number of gravitational waves, in a discovery they say will shed light on the evolution of the universe, and the life and death of stars.

An international team of scientists have made 35 new observations of gravitational waves, which brings the total number of detections since 2015 to 90.

Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of spacetime, created by massive cosmic events – such as pairs of black holes smashing together – up to billions of light years away.

Waves from these cataclysmic collisions were detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo) observatory in the US and the Virgo instrument in Italy between November 2019 and March 2020.

The first detection of gravitational waves, announced in 2016, confirmed a prediction Albert Einstein made a century earlier based on his general theory of relativity.

Monash University researcher Shanika Galaudage, a collaborator in the Australian branch of the project known as OzGrav, described gravitational waves as a game-changing “new window into the universe”.

“Gravitational waves are not [electromagnetic] light,” Galaudage said. “We can see things that are invisible, such as binary black hole mergers.”

Of the 35 new detections, 32 likely resulted from pairs of black holes merging.

Notable discoveries included two massive pairs of black holes orbiting each other – one pair that was 145 times as heavy as the mass of the sun, and the other 112 times. The scientists also discovered a “light” pair of black holes with a combined mass only 18 times that of the sun.

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