More Evidence for the Gravitational Wave Background of the Universe

Pulsar timing array. Credit: David Champion/Max Planck

The gravitational wave background was first detected in 2016. It was announced following the release of the first data set from the European Pulsar Timing Array. A second set of data has just been released and, joined by the Indian Pulsar Timing Array, both studies confirm the existence of the background. The latest theory seems to suggest that we’re seeing the combined signal of supermassive black hole mergers. 

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Gravitational Lenses Could Pin Down Black Hole Mergers with Unprecedented Accuracy

Gravitational wave astronomy has been one of the hottest new types of astronomy ever since the LIGO consortium officially detected the first gravitational wave (GW) back in 2016. Astronomers were excited about the number of new questions that could be answered using this sensing technique that had never been considered before. But a lot of the nuance of the GWs that LIGO and other detectors have found in the 90 gravitational wave candidates they have found since 2016 is lost. 

Researchers have a hard time determining which galaxy a gravitational wave comes from. But now, a new paper from researchers in the Netherlands has a strategy and developed some simulations that could help narrow down the search for the birthplace of GWs. To do so, they use another darling of astronomers everywhere—gravitational lensing.

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Astronomers Will Get Gravitational Wave Alerts Within 30 Seconds

Astronomers and astrophysicists could use these alerts and information to understand how neutron stars behave and study nuclear interactions between neutron stars and black holes colliding.

Any event in the cosmos generates gravitational waves, the bigger the event, the more disturbance. Events where black holes and neutron stars collide can send out waves detectable here on Earth. It is possible that there can be an event in visible light when neutron stars collide so to take advantage of every opportunity an early warning is essential. The teams at LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA observatories are working on an alert system that will alert astronomers within 30 seconds fo a gravity wave event. If warning is early enough it may be possible to identify the source and watch the after glow. 

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A Neutron Star Merged with a Surprisingly Light Black Hole

Artwork of a neutron star–black hole merger. Credit: Carl Knox, OzGrav-Swinburne University.

Galactic collisions, meteor impacts and even stellar mergers are not uncommon events. neutron stars colliding with black holes however are a little more rare, in fact, until now, we have never observed one. The fourth LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA observing detected gravitational waves from a collision between a black hole and neutron star 650 million light years away. The black hole was tiny though with a mass between 2.5 to 4.5 times that of the Sun. 

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Colliding Neutron Stars are the Ultimate Particle Accelerators

This artist’s impression shows two tiny but very dense neutron stars at the point at which they merge and explode as a kilonova. Such a very rare event is expected to produce both gravitational waves and a short gamma-ray burst, both of which were observed on 17 August 2017 by LIGO–Virgo and Fermi/INTEGRAL respectively. Subsequent detailed observations with many ESO telescopes confirmed that this object, seen in the galaxy NGC 4993 about 130 million light-years from the Earth, is indeed a kilonova. Such objects are the main source of very heavy chemical elements, such as gold and platinum, in the Universe.

Gamma-ray telescopes observing neutron star collisions might be the key to identifying the composition of dark matter. One leading theory explaining dark matter it that is mostly made from hypothetical particles called axions. If an axion is created within the intensely energetic environment of two neutron stars merging, it should then decay into gamma-ray photons which we could see using space telescopes like Fermi-LAT.

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Gravitational Waves Could Show us the First Minute of the Universe

Primordial Gravitational Waves
Primordial Gravitational Waves

Astronomers routinely explore the universe using different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum from the familiar visible light to radio waves and infra-red to gamma rays. There is a problem with studying the Universe through the electromagnetic spectrum, we can only see light from a time when the Universe was only 380,000 years old. An alternate approach is to use gravitational waves which are thought to have been present in the early Universe and may allow us to probe back even further. 

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For its Next Trick, Gaia Could Help Detect Background Gravitational Waves in the Universe

Artist impression of ESA's Gaia satellite observing the Milky Way. The background image of the sky is compiled from data from more than 1.8 billion stars. It shows the total brightness and colour of stars observed by Gaia
Artist impression of ESA's Gaia satellite observing the Milky Way (Credit : ESA/ATG medialab; Milky Way: ESA/Gaia/DPAC)

Ripples in a pond can be captivating on a nice sunny day as can ripples in the very fabric of space, although the latter are a little harder to observe.  Using the highly tuned Gaia probe, a team of astronomers propose that it might just be possible to detect gravitational waves through the disturbance they impart on the movement of asteroids in our Solar System!

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After Three Years of Upgrades, LIGO is Fully Operational Again

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory is made up of two detectors, this one in Livingston, La., and one near Hanford, Wash. The detectors use giant arms in the shape of an "L" to measure tiny ripples in the fabric of the universe. Credit: Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab

Have you noticed a lack of gravitational wave announcements the past couple of years? Well, now it is time to get ready for an onslaught, as the Laser Interferometric Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) starts a new 20-month observation run today, May 24th after a 3-year hiatus.

LIGO has been offline for the last three years, getting some serious new upgrades. One upgrade, called “quantum squeezing,” reduces detector noise to improve its ability to sense gravitational waves.

Astronomers expect this upgrade could double the sensitivity of LIGO. This will allow black hole mergers to be seen more clearly, and it could also allow LIGO to see mergers that are fainter or farther away. Or, perhaps it could even detect new kinds of mergers that have never been seen before.

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LISA Will Be a Remarkable Gravitational-Wave Observatory. But There’s a Way to Make it 100 Times More Powerful

Artist's impression of the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA). Credit: ESA

The first-time detection of Gravitational Waves (GW) by researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) in 2015 triggered a revolution in astronomy. This phenomenon consists of ripples in spacetime caused by the merger of massive objects and was predicted a century prior by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. In the coming years, this burgeoning field will advance considerably thanks to the introduction of next-generation observatories, like the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA).

With greater sensitivity, astronomers will be able to trace GW events back to their source and use them to probe the interiors of exotic objects and the laws of physics. As part of their Voyage 2050 planning cycle, the European Space Agency (ESA) is considering mission themes that could be ready by 2050 – including GW astronomy. In a recent paper, researchers from the ESA’s Mission Analysis Section and the University of Glasgow presented a new concept that would build on LISA – known as LISAmax. As they report, this observatory could potentially improve GW sensitivity by two orders of magnitude.

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Gravitational Waves From Colliding Neutron Stars Matched to a Fast Radio Burst

Artist’s impression of a fast radio burst traveling through space and reaching Earth. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) were first detected in 2007 (the Lorimer Burst) and have remained one of the most mysterious astronomical phenomena ever since. These bright radio pulses generally last a few milliseconds and are never heard from again (except in the rare case of Repeating FRBs). And then you have Gravitational Waves (GW), a phenomenon predicted by General Relativity that was first detected on September 14th, 2015. Together, these two phenomena have led to a revolution in astronomy where events are detected regularly and provide fresh insight into other cosmic mysteries.

In a new study led by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav), an Australian-American team of researchers has revealed that FRBs and GWs may be connected. According to their study, which recently appeared in the journal Nature Astronomy, the team noted a potential coincidence between a binary neutron star merger and a bright non-repeating FRB. If confirmed, their results could confirm what astronomers have expected for some time – that FRBs are caused by a variety of astronomical events.

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