At the end of September, the scientific community made a groundbreaking discovery in the form of a gravitational wave detected as a result of the collision of two black holes. Yesterday, November 14, it was announced that a new kind of gravitational wave will possibly be discovered in the next coming decade.
According to Gizmodo, a new technology has been developed which goes by the name of pulsar timing array, or PTA. These gravitational waves which researchers say have the potential to discover would come from black holes “millions, even billions” times of the mass of the Sun. They would orbit one another in a similar way to “giants dancing and stomping in the distance”.
The difference between PTA and other gravitational wave experiments, reveals ScienceDaily, is that the measurement method used in their discovery is on a much larger scale. Flatiron Institute astrophysicist Chiara Mingarelli explained that these new experiments “measure the timing of pulsars, light sources that send beams to earth at regular intervals like lighthouses.”
The way that PTAs work is this; they target the regular arrival times of radio pulses from millisecond pulsars in order to seek out gravitational waves. They did this by examining what happens after two black holes collide; upon the collision, the universe is thus bathed in low-frequency waves, which subsequently stretch and squash spacetime’s fabric. The timing of pulsar pulses are henceforth affected, with these changes being detected through “carefully designed experiments” by scientists here on Earth.
Data is used, reports EurekAlert!, to not only predict just how many but also which specific galaxies would be radiating these waves. Prior to this new technology having been implemented, it was impossible to tell exactly which galaxies in question would be responsible for producing gravitational waves. However, due to the new technology which allows for a closer look at the theoretical galaxy merger rate, it will be far easier to directly pinpoint the galaxies which are more likely to merge.
According to Mingarelli, the Sombrero Galaxy and M104 are the most likely candidates to produce detectable waves. This is due to the length of time of orbiting binary patterns.
[Featured Image by NASA, ESA/AP Images]