UWA researcher hopes to hear ‘symphony of gravitational sounds’ after second detection of gravitational waves

UWA researcher hopes to hear ‘symphony of gravitational sounds’ after second detection of gravitational waves
UWA researcher hopes to hear ‘symphony of gravitational sounds’ after second detection of gravitational waves

SCIENTISTS hope to hear a “symphony of gravitational sounds” after confirming a second detection of gravitational waves in space.

An international team of scientists, including 21 researchers from UWA, confirmed a second detection of gravitational waves following their world-first discovery last September.

They say the second detection suggests increasing the power of the laser light used to detect the waves will lead scientists to hear more.

MORE: UWA breakthrough could see hundreds of gravity wave events recorded every day.

Gravitational waves are waves of energy, ripples in the fabric of space-time and the discovery of the first wave last year proved a prediction Albert Einstein made 100 years ago.

Professor David Blair from UWA’s School of Physics said the scientists initially feared the first signal might have been the only one they would hear in their lifetime.

“But on Boxing Day at 11.38am Perth time, we heard two more black holes intercept, one eight times the weight of the sun, the other fourteen times,” the Guildford resident said.

“The new signal created a black hole about twice the size of Perth, weighing 22 times the mass of the sun.

“The first signal gave us a single brief musical chirp; the second one consisted of a longer rising tone that reached a crescendo just above middle C.

“The new detection proves that there are many more black holes merging than we ever expected.

“As we tune up our detectors there will be symphony of gravitational sounds.”

MORE: How Gingin helped to make waves.

Prof Blair said the signals came from a billion light years away and they would only be able to pinpoint their location by setting up more detectors around the world.

The team is currently working on techniques for making detectors more sensitive, including those tested at Gingin in WA, which will help the US observatories increase their laser power.

Gravitational wave detectors are the most sensitive instruments ever created and the UWA team is using some of the techniques to make new sensors and to detect minerals buried deep underground.

The gravitational waves were detected by twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA.

The LIGO Observatories are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and were conceived, built, and operated by Caltech and MIT.

Both discoveries were made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (which includes the GEO600 Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy) and the Virgo Collaboration using data from the two LIGO detectors.