Gravitational Waves Shed Light On Black Holes & Dark Matter

The third detection of gravitational waves offers new insights into the mysteries behind black holes and dark matter.

AsianScientist (Jun. 8, 2017) – An international team of researchers has made a third detection of gravitational waves, ripples in space and time, in a discovery that provides new insights into the mysterious nature of black holes and, potentially, dark matter. Their findings have been published in Physical Review Letters.

On 4 January this year, the team intercepted the minute gravitational waves from a binary black hole system three billion light years away undergoing its final death throes to form a larger black hole about 50 times the mass of the Sun. Professor Susan Scott from the Australian National University (ANU) said the discovery provided the first evidence that black holes in binary systems may not be aligned.

“This means that the two black holes could be spinning in opposite directions, which provides a tantalising clue as to how the binary system may have formed,” said Scott, who is also a Chief Investigator of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav).

“It’s possible that this is a binary system of black holes formed in the early Universe that contributes significantly to the dark matter in the cosmos. This heavy stellar-mass binary black hole system was at a much greater distance than the first two gravitational wave events, at some three billion light years away.”

Researchers Dr. Bram Slagmolen and Dr. Robert Ward from ANU are working on further improvements to the instruments so the team will be able to detect other types of events such as gravitational waves radiated by neutron stars, which are made when giant stars explode and their cores collapse.

“We hope to detect continuous gravitational waves from neutron stars, which is good motivation to develop advanced technologies including quantum-squeezing optical devices to search for these fainter sources of gravitational waves,” said Ward, who is also a member of OzGrav.

“This discovery highlights the need to continue improving the sensitivity of our detectors to see further and further out into the Universe,” Scott added.

The article can be found at: Abbott et al. (2017) GW170104: Observation of a 50-Solar-Mass Binary Black Hole Coalescence at Redshift 0.2.


Source: Australian National University.
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