Perhaps the most surprising prediction of general relativity is that of gravitational waves. Ripples in space and time that spread through the universe at the speed of light. Gravitational waves are so faint that for decades their detection was thought impossible. Even today, it takes an array of laser interferometers several kilometers long to see their effect. But what if we could detect them with a table-top experiment in a university lab?
In a recent paper published in the New Journal of Physics, a team of physicists proposes just such a device. Rather than using beams of light, they suggest using the quantum superposition of a single electron.
Continue reading “Could a tabletop experiment detect gravitational waves and determine the quantum nature of gravity?”
On the 12th of April, 2019, the LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave observatories detected the merger of two black holes. Named GW190412, one of the black holes was eight solar masses, while the other was 30 solar masses. On the 14th of August that year, an even more extreme merger was observed, when a 2.5 solar mass object merged with a black hole nearly ten times more massive. These mergers raise fundamental questions about the way black hole mergers happen.
Continue reading “Why Can Black Hole Binaries Have Dramatically Different Masses? Multiple Generations of Mergers”
In the coming years, multiple space agencies will be sending missions (including astronauts) to the Moon’s southern polar region to conduct vital research. In addition to scouting resources in the area (in preparation for the construction of a lunar base) these missions will also investigate the possibility of conducting various scientific investigations on the far side of the Moon.
However, two prominent scientists (Dr. Karan Jani and Prof. Abraham Loeb) recently published a paper where they argue that another kind of astronomy could be conducted on the far side of the Moon – Gravitational Wave astronomy! As part of NASA’s Project Artemis, they explain how a Gravitational-wave Lunar Observatory for Cosmology (GLOC) would be ideal for exploring GW in the richest and most challenging frequencies.
Continue reading “The Moon is an Ideal Spot for a Gravitational Wave Observatory”
Gravitational wave astronomy has changed the way we view the cosmos. In only a few years we have observed the collisions of black holes and neutron stars, confirming our theoretical understanding of these strange objects. But as gravitational wave astronomy matures, it will allow us to probe the very nature of space and time itself. While that day is a long way off, it hasn’t stopped the theory folks from dreaming up new discoveries. For example, how it might look if a black hole and a wormhole interact.
Continue reading “A Black Hole Popping Out of a Traversable Wormhole Should Give Off a Very Specific Signal in Gravitational Waves”
When pulsars were first discovered in 1967, their rhythmic radio-wave pulsations were a mystery. Some thought their radio beams must be of extraterrestrial origin.
We’ve learned a lot since then. We know that pulsars are magnetized, rotating neutrons stars. We know that they rotate very rapidly, with their magnetic poles sending sweeping beams of radio waves out into space. And if they’re aimed the right way, we can “see” them as pulses of radio waves, even though the radio waves are steady. They’re kind of like lighthouses.
But the exact mechanism that creates all of that electromagnetic radiation has remained a mystery.
Continue reading “Why Pulsars Are So Bright”
One of the most pressing questions in astronomy concerns black holes. We know that massive stars that explode as supernovae can leave stellar mass black holes as remnants. And astrophysicists understand that process. But what about the supermassive black holes (SMBHs) like Sagittarius A-star (Sgr A*,) at the heart of the Milky Way?
SMBHs can have a billion solar masses. How do they get so big?
Continue reading “New Simulations Show How Black Holes Grow, Through Mergers and Accretion”
In another first, scientists at the LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave detectors announced a signal unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. While many black hole mergers have been detected thanks to LIGO and Virgo’s international network for detectors, this particular signal (GW190412) was the first where the two black holes had distinctly different masses.
Continue reading “Astronomers Detected a Black Hole Merger With Very Different Mass Objects”
Since 1958, the NASA Explorer Program has conducted low-cost missions that were deemed relevant to the goals of the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), particularly where the study of our Sun and the deeper cosmic mysteries are concerned. Recently, the Explorer Program selected four missions that they considered to be well-suited to these goals, two of which will be selected for launch in the coming years.
Consisting of two astrophysics Small Explorer (SMEX) and two Missions of Opportunity (MO) proposals, these missions are designed to study cosmic explosions and the debris they leave behind, as well as monitor how nearby stellar flares may affect the atmospheres of orbiting planets. After detailed evaluations, two of these missions will be selected next year and will take to space sometime in 2025.
Continue reading “NASA Chooses 4 New Astronomy Space Missions for Additional Study”
Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity predicted that black holes would form and eventually collide. It also predicted the creation of gravitational waves from the collision. But how often does this happen, and can we calculate how many stars this will happen to?
A new study from a physicist at Vanderbilt University sought to answer these questions.
Continue reading “14% of all the Massive Stars in the Universe are Destined to Collide as Black Holes”
Gravitational waves are caused by calamitous events in the Universe. Neutron stars that finally merge after circling each other for a long time can create them, and so can two black holes that collide with each other. But sometimes there’s a burst of gravitational waves that doesn’t have a clear cause.
Continue reading “A Mysterious Burst of Gravitational Waves Came From a Region Near Betelgeuse. But There’s Probably No Connection”