by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (SPX) Nov 28, 2017
Scientists searching for gravitational waves have confirmed yet another detection from their fruitful observing run earlier this year. Dubbed GW170608, the latest discovery was produced by the merger of two relatively light black holes, 7 and 12 times the mass of the sun, at a distance of about a billion light-years from Earth. The merger left behind a final black hole 18 times the mass of the sun, meaning that energy equivalent to about 1 solar mass was emitted as gravitational waves during the collision.
This event, detected by the two NSF-supported LIGO detectors at 02:01:16 UTC on June 8, 2017 (or 10:01:16 pm on June 7 in US Eastern Daylight time), was actually the second binary black hole merger observed during LIGO's second observation run since being upgraded in a program called Advanced LIGO.
But its announcement was delayed due to the time required to understand two other discoveries: a LIGO-Virgo three-detector observation of gravitational waves from another binary black hole merger (GW170814) on August 14, and the first-ever detection of a binary neutron star merger (GW170817) in light and gravitational waves on August 17.
A fortuitous detection
A month before this detection, LIGO paused its second observation run to open the vacuum systems at both sites and perform maintenance. While researchers at LIGO Livingston, in Louisiana, completed their maintenance and were ready to observe again after about two weeks, LIGO Hanford, in Washington, encountered additional problems that delayed its return to observing.
On the afternoon of June 7 (PDT), LIGO Hanford was finally able to stay online reliably and staff were making final preparations to once again "listen" for incoming gravitational waves. As part of these preparations, the team at Hanford was making routine adjustments to reduce the level of noise in the gravitational-wave data caused by angular motion of the main mirrors.
To disentangle how much this angular motion affected the data, scientists shook the mirrors very slightly at specific frequencies. A few minutes into this procedure, GW170608 passed through Hanford's interferometer, reaching Louisiana about 7 milliseconds later.
LIGO Livingston quickly reported the possible detection, but since Hanford's detector was being worked on, its automated detection system was not engaged. While the procedure being performed affected LIGO Hanford's ability to automatically analyze incoming data, it did not prevent LIGO Hanford from detecting gravitational waves.
The procedure only affected a narrow frequency range, so LIGO researchers, having learned of the detection in Louisiana, were still able to look for and find the waves in the data after excluding those frequencies. For this detection, Virgo was still in a commissioning phase; it started taking data on August 1.
More to learn about black holes
This discovery will enable astronomers to compare the properties of black holes gleaned from gravitational wave observations with those of similar-mass black holes previously only detected with X-ray studies, and fills in a missing link between the two classes of black hole observations.
Despite their relatively diminutive size, GW170608's black holes will greatly contribute to the growing field of "multimessenger astronomy," where gravitational wave astronomers and electromagnetic astronomers work together to learn more about these exotic and mysterious objects.
LIGO and Virgo scientists continue to study data from the completed O2 observing run, searching for other events already "in the can," and are preparing for the greater sensitivity expected for the fall O3 observing run.
+ Additional information for the scientific and general public can be found here
A paper describing the newly confirmed observation, "GW170608: Observation of a 19-solar-mass binary black hole coalescence," authored by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration has been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters and is available to read on the arXiv.
Rochester NY (SPX) Oct 31, 2017
The outskirts of spiral galaxies like our own could be crowded with colliding black holes of massive proportions and a prime location for scientists hunting the sources of gravitational waves, said researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology in an upcoming paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters. The RIT study identifies an overlooked region that may prove to be rife with orbiting blac ... read more
LIGO at Caltech
Understanding Time and Space
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