Four New Gravitational Wave Detections Announced, Including Most Massive Event Yet

By Chelsea Gohd | December 4, 2018 12:25 pm
merging black holes

An artist’s conception shows two merging black holes. (Credit: (LIGO/Caltech/MIT/Sonoma State (AuroreSimonnet))

Detecting Gravitational Waves

Scientists have announced the detection of four new gravitational waves, bringing the total to 11. First captured by the LIGO detectors in 2015, the new observations of ripples in the fabric of space-time are quickly adding up and helping researchers to better understand powerful and distant cosmic phenomena like black holes and neutron stars.

Scientists, using LIGO and the European-based Virgo gravitational wave detectors, have detected gravitational waves from a total of ten stellar-mass binary black hole mergers and one merger of neutron stars, which are the collapsed cores of giant stars.

A highlight of the new detections is a black hole merger from about 5 billion years ago that is the most massive and distant gravitational-wave source scientists have ever seen. This merger created a black hole 80 times larger than the Sun and released an amount of gravitational energy equivalent to the mass of five of our home star.

“Gravitational waves give us unprecedented insight into the population and properties of black holes. We now have a sharper picture of both how frequently stellar mass binary black holes merge and what their masses are. These measurements will further enable us to understand how the most massive stars of our Universe are born, live and die,” Northwestern University’s Chris Pankow, who led the analysis of black hole populations, said in a statement.

black hole chart

This chart shows the masses of black holes detected so far using gravitational waves.

Future Implications

Thanks to these new detections, scientists have enough data to infer that all stellar-weight black holes weigh less than 45 times the mass of the sun. This work also shows how it’s possible that more binary black hole mergers occurred earlier in the universe, Pankow said to Discover.

While these detections reveal information about black holes, they also open doors to future research, Pankow explained. When gravitational waves were first physically detected in 2015, it was a major first. But with these 11 new detections, researchers have a wealth of new data and opportunities to explore gravitational waves and the events that create them.

In the past, our current understanding of black holes and these phenomena was supported by observations with X-rays and optical and radio waves. These methods have provided an overwhelming wealth of data and contributed immensely to astronomy and astrophysics. However, Pankow added, gravitational waves allow us to study and understand binary black holes in a way that can’t be done with other measures.

“That’s allowed for testing our understanding of what gravity really means,” Pankow said, adding that the researchers could also use these detections to better understand how stars evolve and die.

These findings are described in two papers available on arXiv, which houses electronic preprints that have not yet been peer reviewed. The papers can be found here and here.

  • Uncle Al

    … We mount an antipodes map, (enter coordinates on the lower right)
    … pull up LIGO coordinates, 30.562894, -90.774242 for Livingston, 46.455144, -119.407656 for Hanford

    and observe the farthest, flat, tectonically quiet, worthless land from both is Wooramel, Western Australia 6701
    -25.246112, 114.315148

    Stop whining. Build it, then trilaterate with Virgo. Git ‘er done. 40 years of crap physics – quantum gravitation, SUSY, neutrinoless double beta-decay, dark matter, axions..see-saw mechanism, ridiculous accelerators discovering nothing – can have a happy day.

    • jonathanpulliam

      This is off-topic. Why the Discover moderator allows you to post this garbage unchallenged is beyond me.

  • Kurt Stocklmeir

    all of these are my theories – I have talked about them for years – gravity moves at an almost infinite speed – there is not any Doppler effect for gravity – how strong gravity is does not depend on speed and direction – there is not any Doppler effect of any force – all forces move at an almost infinite speed – gravity waves move at an almost infinite speed – if gravity waves move at the speed of light photons would see some gravity waves with infinite energy because of the Doppler effect – this would do a lot of not normal things – the universe would not work – all particles of the universe do not see any Doppler effect for gravity waves – shape of time and space around mass can be a resonator for standing waves of gravity waves – some times this can look a little like gravity waves – time and space around the earth vibrates – some times this can look a little like gravity waves – the shape of time and space around the earth changes – some times the shape of time and space around the earth changes a lot – this can happen at certain times like end of June end of Dec. end of Sept. end of March – the sun the moon and planets can influence this – some times this can look a little like gravity waves – gravity waves change the vacuum like time and space – because the vacuum changes a lot of things change like electric charge all forces mass magnetic moment energy momentum inertia – equipment like ligo can not see gravity waves Kurt Stocklmeir

    • Kurt Stocklmeir

      these are my theories – photons are going through equipment like ligo – photons will see gravity wave with different amounts of energy when moving in different directions because of Doppler effect if gravity waves moves at the speed of light – this equipment will not work for gravity waves – gravity waves move at an almost infinite speed – spinning gravity waves are torsion waves – time and space can have torsion Kurt Stocklmeir

  • jonathanpulliam

    These articles are pretty crappy in that no one ever bothers to provide the amplitude of gravity waves.


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