LIGO’s Four Gravitational Wave Detections Come From Off-Kilter Black Hole Mergers

“You don’t write a paper saying: This is awesome! But we kind of have that feeling. It’s definitely a frontier.”

By Becky Ferreira | MOTHERBOARD

Two years ago, an entirely new field of astronomy was born when the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) directly detected a gravitational wave for the first time. These waves are ripples in the fabric of spacetime that travel at the speed of light, and are created by disruptive events like the explosions of stars or the merging of black holes.

LIGO has since sensed a total of four of these cosmic tremors, all of which were likely created by binary black hole system mergers. These unions occur when two black holes in close orbit around each other coalesce into a single hole, a process that emits strong gravitational wave signatures.

Now, a team led by Will Farr, an astrophysicist at the University of Birmingham, demonstrates how these early detections of gravitational waves are packed with valuable information about the black hole systems that generated them, and in turn, the stars that formed those black holes once they collapsed after exploding into supernovae.

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