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Dead Stars Enable Measurement of Gravitational Waves from Ancient Black Holes

An international team of astronomers has successfully identified a faint gravitational wave signal resonating throughout the universe. These disturbances in spacetime, occurring at low frequencies, were observed by utilizing a network of rapidly rotating neutron stars known as pulsars, which are the remnants of massive stars after supernova explosions. Similar to the initial discovery of gravitational waves merely eight years ago, this achievement demonstrates mankind’s growing technical proficiency in understanding the natural world.

By employing deceased stars as an expansive gravitational wave detection network, the collaborative effort known as NANOGrav was able to measure a low-frequency vibration originating from a series of spacetime ripples. Pulsars, distinguished by their regular pulses of radio light, function as precise cosmic metronomes, striking us once during each stellar rotation, sometimes hundreds of times per second.

Astronomical Measurements of Gravitational Waves from Ancient Black Holes Leveraging Dead Stars

The groundbreaking 2015 experimental revelation of gravitational waves targeted “high frequency” waves generated by the merger of compact objects weighing as much as massive stars. These oscillations exhibit periods ranging from fractions of a second to several seconds. I have personally conducted research on the evolution of supermassive black holes using the Hubble Space Telescope. As gravitational waves stretch and compress the space they traverse, slightly altering the distances to the pulsars, their presence can be deduced by observing slight deviations in the arrival time of these metronomic beats in a specific pattern across the celestial sphere.

Dead Stars Enable Measurement of Gravitational Waves from Ancient Black Holes

This recent announcement, employing an entirely distinct technique, explores a vastly different frequency range encompassing waves with periods ranging from months to decades. Although the members of the team responsible for this newfound discovery are not yet entirely certain, they highly suspect that the background vibration of gravitational waves they measured was generated by numerous ancient mergers of supermassive black holes. While astronomers are tremendously enthusiastic about this latest advancement, it is understandable if you experience a sense of déjà vu.

Harnessing Dead Stars: Astronomers Detect Gravitational Waves Originating from Ancient Black Holes

Gravitational waves are undulations in spacetime caused by the acceleration of massive objects. Haven’t we already detected gravitational waves? Were we not aware of their existence? It is indeed true that pulsar timing arrays (PTAs) are not the initial evidence supporting the existence of gravitational waves. The NANOGrav discovery builds upon decades of research, unveiling gravitational radiation as a novel window for investigating the universe and some of its most extraordinary components. It stands atop the substantial foundation of physics established by Albert Einstein in the early years of the 20th century through his theories of Special and General Relativity.

The credit for the first detection of gravitational waves goes to the LIGO experiment, which, in late 2015, detected a violent disruption in space caused by the collision of two black holes weighing approximately 30 times the mass of the Sun, transpiring within a distant galaxy. The confident assembly and successful execution of such an extensive consortium and ambitious endeavor validate the materialist conception of nature, along with the remarkable and comprehensive achievements in physics over the past two centuries.

Gravitational Wave Detection: Astronomers Utilize Remnants of Dead Stars to Measure Ancient Black Holes

Researchers initially discovered direct evidence of gravitational waves in 2015 when the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, commonly known as LIGO, detected a signal from a pair of merging black holes that had traveled 1.3 billion light-years to reach Earth. Subsequently, LIGO, in collaboration with partner observatories VIRGO and KAGRA, has identified nearly 100 instances of merger events involving black holes and neutron stars.


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