The collision of two black holes and the subsequent warping of the space around them has led to two separate observatories having detected ripples in the universe’s fabric, also known as gravitational waves. The joint discovery, made by Italy’s Virgo interferometer and the USA’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, was announced earlier Wednesday, September 27.
According to Space.com, the ground-breaking discovery has been officially labeled GW170814 and marks the first time the two observatories have joined together in this kind of detection. LIGO, based in Washington, is no stranger to making such headway in the scientific world; in February of last year, the observatory made history when they announced the very first discovery of gravitational waves. Since then, four more events of the same nature have been detected.
Observation of the signal began back in the summer, around the middle of August, two weeks after Virgo’s research period into the potential detection of gravitational waves began. The two black holes scientists had been keeping an eye on were slightly different in size, with one’s mass being 31 times that of the sun and the other 25. Both of them were in the same mass range as the black holes previously discovered by LIGO. Some of this mass ended up being converted into energy, in gravitational wave form.
BBC News has revealed that the collision in question actually occurred almost two billion years ago, but due to the distance of 1.8 billion light-years was only discovered now. The discovery says Glasgow University’s Sheila Rowan, has paved the way for scientists to discover a brand new understanding of black holes and how they have developed in the cosmos throughout history.
This most recent detection of gravitational waves has also created a solid partnership between the two observatories behind it, with the Virgo facility reportedly expected to work together with LIGO when it comes to future research projects. Both observatories are significantly funded, with the latter being paid for by the National Science Foundation and Virgo being a collaboration between CNRS and INFN, based in France and Italy.
The announcement, although nothing short of incredible when it comes to advancement in the scientific community, was slightly different than that which had been rumored the day before. As reported by ScienceAlert, researchers were aware that something big was about to be revealed to the public in regards to new gravitational wave detection, but it was believed that the discovery was made due to the merging of neutron stars. Despite this not turning out to be the case, the breakthrough is nevertheless field-altering and has the potential to lead to even more now that the two observatories have teamed up and put their resources together.
[Featured Image by Andrew Harnik/AP Images]