The Gravitational Wave Observatory is accumulating discoveries

Scientific discoveries also come from real-time detection signals. Most notable is the possible detection of light from two colliding black holes reported by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) in Caltech for the first time such detection was reported. Black holes are known to be so dense that light cannot escape them, and the fusion of two black holes is also not expected to give light under normal circumstances. In this case, however, the flash of light observed by ZTF is claimed by the team to correspond to the GW event on May 21, 2019, when two black holes merged. The angular momentum from the merger itself, researchers say, would lead to an interaction with the surrounding gas. It was this interaction that could in turn trigger the sudden flash they were watching.

Beyond the individual events, however, a catalog of black hole detection is invaluable for testing our understanding of physics itself. Each part of the GW discovery is made up of several components, including the inspiration of the two objects, the collision itself, and the reverberating aftershock of the merger. Extreme physics in these moments provides a new focal point for testing theories of gravity, ranging from a general theory of relativity to a mysterious dark energy driving the expansion of the universe. “In terms of theoretical interpretation, these are really early days,” explains London. “Some of the tests are really basic.” As the sample of events grows and signatures are better understood, scientists can use statistics to study physics in entirely new ways.

Unfortunately, the O3 cycle was interrupted in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, GW scientists are confident that the next launch, O4, will be even more exciting when it starts in December 2022. They will not only peek farther into space than before, but in 2020 a new GW will appear Detector, Gravitational Wave Kamioka Detector (KAGRA), has appeared online in Japan. Working in tandem with the LIGO and Virgo instruments, KAGRA will allow even more accurate estimates of where GW comes from. Looking ahead, LIGO-India is currently underway and is scheduled to begin observations in 2026. When this happens, the ability to determine where a gravitational wave in the sky came from will be significantly better than where it is. now. This will allow astronomers to identify the locations of space collisions better than ever.

“We’re opening the zoo of astrophysically formed black holes,” Nissanke said, “and it’s exciting to see what’s out there.”

This story was originally published in the July / August 2022 issue Discover magazine, astronomy sister publication of the magazine, such as “Waves of Discovery”. Press here subscribe to read more stories like this.

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