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Fourth gravitational wave found

Speed read
  • LIGO team announces fourth gravitational wave
  • Blue Waters supercomputer enables first end-to-end wave studies
  • Nobel Prize awarded to LIGO founders

When the discovery of the first gravitational wave was announced a mere 18 months ago, scientists predicted observing the waves would become commonplace.

That day may be arriving sooner than thought, with the announcement today of the observation of a fourth gravitational wave signal from a binary black hole collision.

Paint it black. This animation shows the collision of two black holes. The collision happened between 1.1 to 2.2 billion light years from Earth, and was observed from a direction near the Eridanus constellation. Courtesy Roland Haas, Eliu Huerta; University of Illinois.

This new observation uses data from three detectors in the USA and Italy, combining the forces of the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (aLIGO) and Advanced Virgo (aVirgo) instruments to provide improved information on the location of the black holes in the sky.

"The modeling and detection of gravitational waves is a computational grand challenge. Our team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has enabled, for the first time, the use of Blue Waters to carry out end-to-end gravitational wave studies," says Gabrielle Allen, astronomy professor and associate dean of the University of Illinois College of Education.

As was the case in the previous three significant detections, the binary components are consistent with astrophysical properties of black holes, as predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity. This fourth significant detection, called GW170814, is described in a new paper accepted for publication.

<strong>In the beginning.</strong> Rainer Weiss' original design for a Laser Gravitational Wave 'antenna'. Courtesy Rainer Weiss; LIGO.

"A global network of gravitational wave detectors is key to realizing the vision of multi-messenger astrophysics — observing the universe with photons, gravitational waves, and neutrinos that each carry very different messages of information," says Ed Seidel, Founder Professor of Physics and vice president for economic development and innovation for the University of Illinois system.

For their efforts, the founders of the LIGO group have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

"Gravitational wave astrophysics is strongly posed to deliver groundbreaking discoveries for years to come," says NCSA's director, Bill Gropp.

"The NCSA will continue to support the LIGO mission through our Gravity Group, and will support ongoing activities in connection to the exploitation of high performance facilities to accelerate discovery in gravitational wave astrophysics."

Read the original NCSA article here.

For more information about the science behind this amazing discovery, look here

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