Nav: Home

RIT scientists measure black hole's tilt and spin for clues to how massive stars die

June 01, 2017

Rochester Institute of Technology researchers continue to make significant contributions to gravitational wave astronomy, with the third detection of gravitational waves and a new black hole 49 times the size of our sun.

The LIGO collaboration today announced results from the detection of gravitational waves on Jan. 4. The discovery will be published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

RIT scientists helped the collaboration measure and interpret black hole spins and their alignment. These measurements can tell scientists what happens when massive stars die and transform into black holes.

The gravitational wave signal was produced from the collision of black holes. The newly found black hole, formed by the merger, has a mass about 49 times that of our sun. This fills in a gap between the masses of the two merged black holes detected previously by LIGO, with solar masses of 62 (first detection) and 21 (second detection).

"We can see the outlines of a population of black holes emerge," said Richard O'Shaughnessy, associate professor in RIT's School of Mathematical Sciences.

The LIGO paper cites O'Shaughnessy's upcoming research, which was used in part, to help interpret the most recent event. He will present his work at the American Astronomical Society on June 5 in Austin, Texas.

The new observations rule out the possibility that pairs of heavy black holes have a lot of net-aligned spin and agree with LIGO's 2015 breakthrough observation, he noted.

"That's either because heavy black hole spins are small, or because they're tilted, so their net effect cancels out," O'Shaughnessy said. "Different teams have made different predictions for black hole spins. The most extreme predictions are ruled out. As for the others, time will tell."

Research at RIT's Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation is advancing techniques for understanding that crucial astrophysical parameter--spin, said Carlos Lousto, professor in RIT's School of Mathematical Sciences.

"At RIT, we are working on improving the spin measurements of the black holes by solving to high accuracy Einstein's equations and directly comparing those theoretical predictions with LIGO's observed signals," Lousto said.

Researchers in RIT's Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation directly compared gravitational wave signals to their computer simulations based on Albert Einstein's equations. The recent observations further tested Einstein's general theory of relativity and prediction that gravitational waves always move at the speed of light. LIGO saw no evidence that the waves travelled at different speeds.

"This third event lies in an mass range intermediate to the previous two events and shows that black hole mergers are common in the universe," said Manuela Campanelli, director of RIT's Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation and Frontier in Gravitational Astrophysics, an RIT signature research area.

RIT members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration include O'Shaughnessy, Campanelli, Lousto, Yosef Zlochower, John Whelan, Hans-Peter Bischof, James Healy, Brennan Ireland, Jacob Lange, Daniel Wysocki, Andrew Williamson, Yuanhao Zhang and Monica Rizzo. The international collaboration has about 1,000 members who perform LIGO research together with the European-based Virgo Collaboration.

The new detection occurred during LIGO's current observing run, which began Nov. 30, 2016, and will continue through the summer. LIGO observations are carried out by twin detectors--one in Hanford, Wash., and the other in Livingston, La.--operated by Caltech and Massachusetts Institute of Technology with funding from the National Science Foundation.

LIGO made the first-ever direct observation of gravitational waves in September 2015 and a second detection in December 2015. The breakthrough LIGO paper prominently cites 2005 landmark research done by Campanelli and her team on binary black hole mergers. Based on this milestone work, Lousto and Healy numerically modeled the merger of a pair of black holes and simulated gravitational waveforms that match the first LIGO detection.
-end-
LIGO is funded by the National Science Foundation, and operated by MIT and Caltech, which conceived and built the project. Financial support for the Advanced LIGO project was led by NSF with Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council) and Australia (Australian Research Council) making significant commitments and contributions to the project. More than 1,000 scientists from around the world participate in the effort through the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which includes the GEO Collaboration. LIGO partners with the Virgo Collaboration, a consortium including 280 additional scientists throughout Europe supported by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique,, the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare,, and Nikhef, as well as Virgo's host institution, the European Gravitational Observatory. Additional partners are listed at http://ligo.org/partners.php.

Rochester Institute of Technology

Related Black Holes Articles:

Supermassive black holes found in 2 tiny galaxies
U astronomers and colleagues have found two ultra-compact dwarf galaxies with supermassive black holes, the second and third such galaxies found to harbor the objects.
Stars born in winds from supermassive black holes
Observations using ESO's Very Large Telescope have revealed stars forming within powerful outflows of material blasted out from supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies.
Did LIGO detect black holes or gravastars?
After the first direct detection of gravitational waves that was announced last February by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and made news all over the world, Luciano Rezzolla (Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany) and Cecilia Chirenti (Federal University of ABC in Santo André, Brazil) set out to test whether the observed signal could have been a gravastar or not.
New research reveals hundreds of undiscovered black holes
Computer simulations of a spherical collection of stars known as 'NGC 6101' reveal that it contains hundreds of black holes, until now thought impossible.
Chorus of black holes radiates X-rays
The NuSTAR mission is identifying which black holes erupt with the highest-energy X-rays.
Did the LIGO gravitational waves originate from primordial black holes?
Binary black holes recently discovered by the LIGO-Virgo collaboration could be primordial entities that formed just after the Big Bang, report Japanese astrophysicists.
A new look at the galaxy-shaping power of black holes
Data from a now-defunct satellite is providing new insights into the complex tug-of-war between galaxies, the hot plasma that surrounds them, and the giant black holes that lurk in their centers.
The energy spectrum of particles will help make out black holes
Scientists from MIPT, the Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics, and the National Research University Higher School of Economics have devised a method of distinguishing black holes from compact massive objects that are externally indistinguishable from one another.
Using gravitational waves to catch runaway black holes
Black holes are the most powerful gravitational force in the universe.
Black holes and measuring gravitational waves
The supermassive black holes found at the center of every galaxy, including our own Milky Way, may, on average, be smaller than we thought, according to work led by University of Southampton astronomer Dr.

Related Black Holes Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Don't Fear Math
Why do many of us hate, even fear math? Why are we convinced we're bad at it? This hour, TED speakers explore the myths we tell ourselves and how changing our approach can unlock the beauty of math. Guests include budgeting specialist Phylecia Jones, mathematician and educator Dan Finkel, math teacher Eddie Woo, educator Masha Gershman, and radio personality and eternal math nerd Adam Spencer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#517 Life in Plastic, Not Fantastic
Our modern lives run on plastic. It's in the computers and phones we use. It's in our clothing, it wraps our food. It surrounds us every day, and when we throw it out, it's devastating for the environment. This week we air a live show we recorded at the 2019 Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, D.C., where Bethany Brookshire sat down with three plastics researchers - Christina Simkanin, Chelsea Rochman, and Jennifer Provencher - and a live audience to discuss plastics in our oceans. Where they are, where they are going, and what they carry with them. Related links:...