2 June 2017
The Optical Society Congratulates the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Detection of a new Population of Black Holes
Advanced Optical Interferometers Discover a Black Hole with a Solar Mass of
49 Times that of the Sun
WASHINGTON — Astrophysicists have long sought to detect ripples in space-time called gravitational waves since Albert Einstein’s 1916 general theory of relativity predicted their existence. Only some of the most massive astrophysical events, such as mergers of black holes and neutron stars, can produce gravitational waves strong enough to be detected on earth. Since the 1990s, research teams from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO
) have collectively tried to observe this phenomenon. The LIGO Scientific Collaboration today announced their third detection of gravitational waves, thus confirming a new population of black holes.
LIGO’s first detection in September 2015 discovered a black hole with a solar mass of 62. A second detection came in December 2015 with a solar mass of 21. The new found black hole, formed when two black holes merged, has a solar mass of 49 times our sun. LIGO measures this distortion of space using solid-state lasers and Michelson interferometers, among the most venerated of all optical instruments. A Michelson interferometer’s natural comparison of distances along two perpendicular directions is perfectly matched to the predicted affect as the black holes are spinning into a merged binary black hole.
“Forty years ago, the National Science Foundation invested in early-stage LIGO and that investment proved to be critical to these astronomical discoveries,” said Elizabeth Rogan, CEO of The Optical Society. “Investments made in science, technology and innovation today are essential for economic development and social progress. The LIGO Scientific Collaboration continues to further define what we know about our universe and, with the right investment in scientific research, LIGO will continue on with many more insightful detections of our universe.”
Author on the paper, David Reitze, LIGO Executive Director and Fellow of The Optical Society, stated, “Our team from the LIGO Scientific Collaboration are working to make gravitational wave detection a routine occurrence. As our interferometers continue to advance in engineering sensitivity, I am confident we will continue to detect more astrophysical events involving black holes and neutron stars.”
Gravitational waves, ripples in space and time, long proved to be an incredible measurement challenge now overcome through optics. The Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (aLIGO) has spurred great interest in improving these advanced optical detectors. Future upgrades of aLIGO, targeted for the summer of 2017, will push the instrument toward its ultimate design sensitivity, and the detection of binary black hole mergers could become literally a daily event.
About The Optical Society
Founded in 1916, The Optical Society (OSA) is the leading professional organization for scientists, engineers, students and business leaders who fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate achievements in the science of light. Through world-renowned publications, meetings and membership initiatives, OSA provides quality research, inspired interactions and dedicated resources for its extensive global network of optics and photonics experts. For more information, visit osa.org