Category: ligo

Black Hole Mergers To Be Predicted Years In Ad…

Black Hole Mergers To Be Predicted Years In Advance By The 2030s

“When we detect black hole-black hole events with LIGO, it’s only the last few orbits that have a large enough amplitude to be seen above the background noise. The entirety of the signal’s duration lasts from a few hundred milliseconds to only a couple of seconds. By time a signal is collected, identified, processed, and localized, the critical merger event has already passed. There’s no way to point your telescopes — the ones that could find an electromagnetic counterpart to the signal — quickly enough to catch them from birth. Even inspiraling and merging neutron stars could only last tens of seconds before the critical “chirp” moment arrives. Processing time, even under ideal conditions, makes predicting the particular when-and-where a signal will occur a practical impossibility. But all of this will change with LISA.”

The past few years have ushered in the era of gravitational wave astronomy, turning a once-esoteric and controversial prediction of General Relativity into a robust, observational science. Less than a year ago, with three independent detectors online at once, the first localizations of gravitational wave signals were successfully performed. Multi-messenger astronomy, with gravitational waves and an electromagnetic follow-up, came about shortly thereafter, with the first successful neutron star-neutron star merger. But one prediction still eludes us: the ability to know where and when a merger will occur way in advance.

Thanks to LISA, launching in the 2030s, that’s all going to change. Suddenly, we’ll be able to predict these events weeks, months, or even years in advance! Here’s how.

Black Hole Mergers Might Actually Make Gamma-R…

Black Hole Mergers Might Actually Make Gamma-Ray Bursts, After All

“If there is a gamma-ray signal associated with black hole-black hole mergers, it heralds a revolution in physics. Black holes may have accretion disks and may often have infalling matter surrounding them, being drawn in from the interstellar medium. In the case of binary black holes, there may also be the remnants of planets and the progenitor stars floating around, as well as the potential to be housed in a messy, star-forming region. But the central black holes themselves cannot emit any radiation. If something’s emitted from their location, it must be due to the accelerated matter surrounding them. In the absence of magnetic fields anywhere near the strength of neutron stars, it’s unclear how such an energetic burst could be generated.”

In 2015, the very first black hole-black hole merger was seen by the LIGO detectors. Interestingly, the NASA Fermi team claimed the detection of a transient event well above their noise floor, beginning just 0.4 seconds after the arrival of the gravitational wave signal. On the other hand, the other gamma-ray detector in space, ESA’s Integral, not only saw nothing, but claimed the Fermi analysis was flawed. Subsequent black hole-black hole mergers showed no such signal, but they were all of far lower masses than that very first signal from September 14, 2015. Now, however, a reanalysis of the data is available from the Fermi team themselves, validating their method and indicating that, indeed, a 3-sigma result was seen during that time. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there was something real there, but it’s suggestive enough that it’s mandatory we continue to look for electromagnetic counterparts to black hole-black hole mergers.

The Universe continues to be full of surprises, and the idea that black hole mergers may make gamma-rays, after all, would be a revolutionary one! Come get the full story today.

LIGO’s Greatest Discovery Almost Didn&rs…

LIGO’s Greatest Discovery Almost Didn’t Happen

“If all we had done was look at the automated signals, we would have gotten just one “single-detector alert,” in the Hanford detector, while the other two detectors would have registered no event. We would have thrown it away, all because the orientation was such that there was no significant signal in Virgo, and a glitch caused the Livingston signal to be vetoed. If we left the signal-finding solely to algorithms and theoretical decisions, a 1-in-10,000 coincidence would have stopped us from finding this first-of-its-kind event. But we had scientists on the job: real, live, human scientists, and now we’ve confidently seen a multi-messenger signal, in gravitational waves and electromagnetic light, for the very first time.”

Imagine the scene: it’s mid-August, 2017, and the Virgo detector has just joined the twin LIGO detectors barely two weeks ago. Amazingly, on August 14th, you’ve seen a gravitational wave signal in all three detectors; another black hole-black hole merger. Then, all of a sudden, even though the LIGO detectors are set to shut down later in the month, an extraordinarily significant signal goes off… but only in one detector. The LIGO Hanford detector sees a signal with a false-alarm probability of just one part in 300 billion; a slam dunk. Yet both LIGO Livingston and Virgo see nothing. A non-coincident signal should automatically be rejected, but somehow, one of the young researchers working on the project thought to check the Livingston data by hand… and that was where the secret lay.

LIGO’s greatest discovery, of two merging neutron stars, almost was overlooked. Thankfully, the hands-on nature of the scientists working on gravitational waves were able to turn this into the discovery of the century! (So far!)

Dark Matter Winners And Losers In The Aftermat…

Dark Matter Winners And Losers In The Aftermath Of LIGO

“Winner: Cold dark matter. Particularly from the neutron star mergers 130 million light years away, there ought to be a delay in the arrival time of the gravitational wave signal due to intervening matter on the order of a few hundred years. The fact that the arrival of both light waves and gravitational waves were delayed by the same amount provides further evidence for dark matter, especially considering that a quadruply-lensed supernova had already been observed in light waves, demonstrating that dark matter delays the arrival time of light signals. If there were no dark matter, this behavior should be vastly different; our gravitational wave observatories have provided further, independent evidence that dark matter is real.”

LIGO didn’t just detect the gravitational waves from merging black holes, it also gave us a whole slew of information about these ripples and the Universe they traveled through. Alternatives to General Relativity became highly constrained, with many variants of modified gravity getting ruled out. On the other hand, Einstein’s theory emerged stronger than ever. Models which did away with dark matter suffered tremendous setbacks, while standard cold dark matter scored a major victory. Variable speed-of-light theories took a hit, and may be well on their way out. And finally, when you fold in the other results, WIMP dark matter, particularly from supersymmetry, is looking worse and worse as time goes on and new results continue to pour in. What is the dark matter, then? Perhaps, in a stunning turn of events, it may have something to do with the neutrino after all.

Come find out who the dark matter winners and losers are in the aftermath of LIGO, a newfound scientific result that we didn’t dare to imagine just two years ago!

The Largest Black Hole Merger Of All-Time Is C…

The Largest Black Hole Merger Of All-Time Is Coming, And Soon

“Over in Andromeda, the nearest large galaxy to the Milky Way, a number of unusual systems have been found. 

One of them, J0045+41, was originally thought to be two stars orbiting one another with a period of just 80 days.

When additional observations were taken in the X-ray, they revealed a surprise: J0045+41 weren’t stars at all.”

When you look at any narrow region of the sky, you don’t simply see what’s in front of you. Rather, you see everything along your line-of-sight, as far as your observing power can take you. In the case of the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury, where hundreds of millions of stars were captured in impressive fashion, background objects thousands of times as distant can also be seen. One of them, J0045+41, was originally thought to be a binary star system that was quite tight: with just an 80 day orbital period. Follow-up observations in the X-ray, however, revealed that it wasn’t a binary star system after all, but an ultra-distant supermassive black hole pair, destined to merge in as little as 350 years. If we build the right observatory in space, we’ll be able to observe the entire inspiral-and-merger process for as long as we like!

Come get the full story, and some incredible pictures and visuals, on today’s Mostly Mute Monday!

Ask Ethan: Why Did Light Arrive 1.7 Seconds After Gravitational…

Ask Ethan: Why Did Light Arrive 1.7 Seconds After Gravitational Waves In The Neutron Star Merger?

“Please discuss significance of the 1.7 sec. difference in arrival time between GW and Gamma Ray burst for the recent Neutron star event.”

Every massless particle and wave travels at the speed of light when it moves through a vacuum. Over a distance of 130 million light years, the gamma rays and gravitational waves emitted by merging neutron stars arrived offset by a mere 1.7 seconds, an incredible result! Yet if the light was emitted at the same time as the merger, that 1.7 second delay shouldn’t be there, unless something funny is afoot. While your instinct might be to attribute an exotic cause to this, it’s important to take a look at “mundane” astrophysics first, such as the environment surrounding the neutron star merger, the mechanism that produces the gamma rays, and the thickness of the matter shell that the gamma rays need to travel through. After all, matter is transparent to gravitational waves, but it interacts with light all the time! 30 years ago, neutrinos arrived four hours before the light did in a supernova; could this 1.7 second difference be an ultra-sped-up version of the same effect?

There’s no doubt that the first gamma rays from this neutron star-neutron star merger arrived after the gravitational waves did. But why? Find out on this week’s Ask Ethan!

Seeing One Example Of Merging Neutron Stars Raises Five…

Seeing One Example Of Merging Neutron Stars Raises Five Incredible Questions

“1.) What is the rate at which neutron star-neutron star mergers occur? Before this event was observed, we had two ways of estimating how frequently two neutron stars would merge: from measurements of binary neutron stars in our galaxy (such as from pulsars), and from our theoretical models of star formation, supernovae, and their remnants. That gave us a mean estimate of around 100 such mergers every year within a cubic gigaparsec of space.

Thanks to the observation of this event, we now have our first observational rate estimate, and it’s about ten times larger than we expected. We thought we would need LIGO to reach its design sensitivity (it’s only halfway there) before seeing anything, and then on top of that we thought that pinpointing the location in at least 3 detectors would be unlikely. Yet we not only got it early, we localized it on the first try. So now the question is, did we just get lucky by seeing this one event, or is the true event rate really so much higher? And if it is, then what is it about our theoretical models that are so wrong?”

Now that we’ve observed merging neutron stars for the first time, in many different wavelengths of light as well as in gravitational waves, we’ve got a whole new world of data to work with. We’ve independently confirmed that gravitational waves are real and that we can, in fact, pinpoint their locations on the sky. We’ve demonstrated that merging neutron stars create short gamma ray bursts, and shown that the origin of the majority of elements heavier than the first row of transition metals comes primarily from neutron star-neutron star mergers. But the new discovery raises a ton of questions, too. Seeing this event has presented theorists with a number of new challenges, ranging from the event rate being some ten times as great as expected to much more matter being ejected than we’d thought. And what was it that was left behind? Was it a neutron star? A black hole? Or an exotic object that’s in its own class?

There are some great advances that the future will hold for gravitational wave and neutron star astronomy, but it’s up to theorists to explain why these objects behave as they do. Here are five burning questions we now have.

Gravitational waves, Light and Merging neutron starsUnlike black…

Gravitational waves, Light and Merging neutron stars

Unlike black hole mergers (gif-1), when two neutron stars merge (gif-2) they give off a huge blast of light in addition to the gravitational wave.

Today LIGO announced that they were able to detect the gravitational waves from the merger of two neutron stars and the revolutionary thing about this is that with the help of telescopes situated across the globe we were to able to confirm this.


(Image credits: Left, Hubble/STScI; Right, 1M2H
Team/UC Santa Cruz & Carnegie Observatories/Ryan Foley)

These are indeed truly exciting times and there is no denying. Have a great day!

* Watch this video to know more

**  How LIGO detects gravitational waves

Astronomy’s ‘Rosetta Stone’: Merging Neutron…

Astronomy’s ‘Rosetta Stone’: Merging Neutron Stars Seen With Both Gravitational Waves And Light

“For the first time in history, gravitational wave astronomy isn’t a pipe dream, nor is it a way of looking for esoteric objects we can’t see via any other means. Instead, it’s truly a part of our night sky, and the first signpost of an astronomical cataclysm. In the future, as gravitational wave astronomy improves, it may even serve as an early warning system, enabling us to locate sources about to merge before they ever do so. It may grow to include not only black holes and neutron stars, but white dwarfs and supermassive black holes swallowing objects as well. Gravitational wave astronomy is only two years old, and we haven’t even taken it to space yet. The next step in understanding the Universe is before us. Sit back and enjoy the ride!”

When the Advanced LIGO detectors turned on in 2015, it shook up the world when they detected their first event: the merger of two quite massive black holes. Since that time, they’ve observed black hole-black hole mergers multiple times, with the VIRGO detector in Italy joining them for the fourth event. But this wasn’t what LIGO/VIRGO expected to see; rather, they were built to hunt for merging neutron stars that were much closer by. Neutron star mergers would be superior to black hole mergers in an extraordinary way: it would enable other astronomers to get in on the action. Unlike black holes, merging neutron stars should emit radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum, from gamma-rays to UV/optical afterglows. On August 17th, LIGO and VIRGO saw their very first neutron star merger, pinpointing its location to galaxy NGC 4993, just 120 million light years away.

For the first time, we’ve joined the gravitational wave and light-based skies together with an incredible event. It’s a glorious step forward. And it’s just the beginning.

fuckyeahphysica: fuckyeahphysica: Black Holes are not so…



Black Holes are not so Black (Part 3) – Gravitational Waves

The existence of Gravitational Waves have been confirmed. But you probably have heard that. In this post, we will break down this profound discovery into comprehend-able chunks.

This is going to be a amazing journey. Ready ?

Redefining Gravity

When we usually talk of Gravitation we are bound to think like Newton,
where objects are assumed to exerting a force upon each other.

imaginary arrows of force in space. But this picture, although good for
high school crumbled, with the advent of Einstein’s theory of


What is the Space-Time Fabric?

Think of space-time fabric as
an actual cloth of fabric. ( An analogy )


When you place an object on the fabric, the
cloth curves. This is exactly what happens in the solar system as well.


sun with such a huge mass bends the space-time fabric. And the earth
and all the planets are kept in orbit by following this curvature that
has been made by the sun.

Attributing to the various masses of objects, the way they bend this fabric also varies.


What are Gravitational Waves?

If you drop an object in a medium such as water, they produce ripples that propagate as waves through the medium.


Similarly, Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time fabric produced when you drag heavy objects through space time.

And the nature of these waves is that they don’t require a medium to propagate.

How do you make one?

Everything with mass/energy can create these waves.



Two persons dancing around each other in space too can create gravitational waves. But the waves would be extremely faint.

You need something big and massive accelerating through space-time in order to even detect them.


And orbiting binary stars/black holes are valuable in this retrospect.

How can you detect them?

Let’s turn to the problem to detecting them assuming you do find binary stars/black-holes in the wondrous space to suite your needs.

Well, for starters you cannot use rocks/ rulers to measure them because as the space expands and contracts, so do the rocks. ( the distances will remain same in both the cases )


Here’s where the high school fact that the speed of Light is a constant no matter what plays an important and pivotal role.

If the space expands, the time taken for light to reach from A to B would be longer. And if it contracts, the time taken for it to reach from A to B would be smaller.


PC: PHDComics

By allowing the light waves from the contraction and expansion to interfere with each other, such as done in any interferometry experiment we can detect the expansion or contraction. Voila!


And this is exactly what they did! ( on a macroscopic level ) at LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory)

14 September 2015


Two Black Holes with masses of 29 and 36 solar masses merged together some 1.3 Billion light years away.

Two Black Holes colliding is the header animation of the ‘Black Holes are not so Black Series’, in case if you haven’t noticed.


The merger of these two black holes results in the emission of energy equivalent to 3 solar masses as Gravitational Waves.

This signal was seen by both LIGO detectors, in Livingston and Hanford,
with a time difference of 7 milliseconds.

And with the measurement of this time difference, physicists have pronounced the existence of Gravitational Waves.



All this is most certainly easily said than done and requires meticulous and extensive research, not to mention highly sensitive instruments.

Had they not have measured this time difference,
we might have had to wait for the merger for more massive black holes
to collide and maybe even build more sensitive instruments to detect these waves.

And Einstein predicted this a 100 years back!


Mind Blown!

Note: Hope you are able to understand and appreciate the profundity of the discovery done by mankind.

** All animations used here are merely for Educational purposes. If you have any issues, please write to us at :

Why is this discovery a Big Deal ?

Gravitational waves gives
us another way to observe celestial phenomenon. These waves also form
when supernovae explode, when black holes collide and during many other
space activities.


Detecting them might give us a new
perspective into the cosmic events. There is hell of a lot of space that
is left unexplored or lies beyond human exuberance and this discovery
might shed some light on it. ( like the big bang per se )

The ultimate goal is to
understand the fundamental laws of the universe. It is a quest through
the oblivion towards a theory of everything.


Although it is
unknown how many years/decades it might take to get us there, but these discoveries
are markers to getting there.

What is this Image that i see everywhere?


This is not the photograph of the actual event but a simulation run by NASA of two black holes merging.

A2A: Anonymous

How does the actual experimental setup look like ?

The actual experimental setup is a bit complex in its entirety. But the guardian has an elegant image that seems to cover its essence:


A2A: Anonymous

Have a great day!

Nobel Prize in Physics 2017

The Nobel Prize
in Physics 2017 was divided, one half awarded to Rainer Weiss, the other
half jointly to Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”.