Virgo Joins LIGO in Detection of Gravitational Waves

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For the first time, LIGO and the French-Italian Virgo were used to triangulate the position in the universe where the binary black hole merger occurred 1.8 billion years ago.

Scientists have detected gravitational waves - tiny ripples in the fabric of space-time - for the fourth time.

"This is just the beginning of observations with the network enabled by Virgo and LIGO working together", said David Shoemaker, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the spokesman for the LIGO scientific collaboration.

"It is our hope to one day detect gravitational waves and to simultaneously observe the source of the gravitational waves with conventional telescopes so that we might learn even more about what causes the gravitational waves".

"The newly produced spinning black hole has about 53 times the mass of our Sun", said a statement from the global scientists at Virgo detector, located at the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO) in Cascina, near Pisa, Italy.

Gravitational waves were predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago as part of his theory of general relativity, but the first hard evidence of their existence came only in 2015, when two United States detectors found the first such signal.

Shoemaker said to expect a ramp-up in the rate of detections of gravitational waves beginning with the next observing run in the fall of 2018. The second observing run, "O2", began November 30, 2016, and ended August 25, 2017.

Advanced LIGO is a second-generation gravitational-wave detector consisting of the two identical interferometers in Hanford and Livingston.

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Advanced Virgo is the second-generation instrument built and operated by the Virgo collaboration to search for gravitational waves. With the end of observations with the initial Virgo detector in October 2011, the integration of the Advanced Virgo detector began.

The new facility was dedicated in February 2017 while its commissioning was ongoing.

The Virgo detector joined the O2 run on August 1. The Carleton team has also contributed to data quality studies for LIGO and Virgo that have helped to add confidence in these detections. The sky region for GW170814 has a size of only 60 square degrees, more than 10 times smaller than the size using data available from the two LIGO interferometers alone. Still more detectors are due to join the network in the years to come, such as IndiGO in India and KAGRA in Japan.

In January of this year, he and Hillsdale student Joshua Ramette presented their contributions to the project at a meeting of the American Physical Society (APS) in Washington, D.C. The main goal of the research Lang and the other scientists involved with LIGO are conducting is to better understand the formation of black holes and to test Einstein's theory of relativity against alternate gravitational theories. "This precision pointing information enabled 25 partner facilities to perform follow-up observations based on the LIGO-Virgo detection, but no counterpart was identified - as expected for black holes".

And, for the first time, the detection was made jointly with the Virgo observatory from Europe. "With RIT and National Science Foundation support, we are upgrading our supercomputer capabilities to solve Einstein equations for binary black holes".

Being able to zero in on a gravitational-wave detection will be a key step in turning more traditional telescopes toward the source of the emission, which could give astronomers a better understanding of the origins and effects of black hole mergers. The LIGO-Virgo collaboration includes more than a thousand scientists from many different countries, setting a great example in worldwide scientific cooperation.

The Virgo collaboration consists of more than 280 physicists and engineers belonging to 20 different European research groups: six from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France; eight from the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) in Italy; two in The Netherlands with Nikhef; the MTA Wigner RCP in Hungary; the POLGRAW group in Poland; Spain with the University of Valencia; and EGO, the laboratory hosting the Virgo detector near Pisa in Italy.