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. The black holes are 25 and 31 times the mass of the sun before the collision and 53 times the sun mass after, when a merged black hole formed.
The signal was detected on August 14 by the LIGO detectors in Louisiana and Washington and the Virgo detector near Pisa, Italy. The findings were announced in a news conference in Turin, Italy, and will appear inPhysics Review Letters.
The addition of the third observatory has widened the window on the universe, said RIT professor Carlos Lousto. "We now can pinpoint where those black holes collided in the universe with 10 times higher precision than we had with only two detectors", Carlos Lousto stated. "Astronomers can look more accurately toward this direction in sky with conventional telescopes to see if there is an electromagnetic counterpart to such cosmic collisions."
John Whelan, RIT associate professor and the principal investigator of RIT's LIGO group, stated: "Our Virgo colleagues, who have been collaborating on the analysis since our first joint initial detector runs 10 years ago, have now joined the advanced detector network. We now have, for the first time, three advanced gravitational wave detectors observing together."
Richard O'Shaughnessy, RIT assistant professor, added: "With Virgo, we can now reliably point to where a gravitational wave signal came from. We can tell astronomers when and where to point their telescopes."
Scientists will gain a deeper understanding of astrophysical phenomena by combining gravitational wave astronomy with traditional methods using the electromagnetic spectrum.
"Precision pointing makes multimessenger astronomy possible", Richard O'Shaughnessy stated.
The current study cites 2005 breakthrough research by Carlos Lousto; Manuela Campanelli, RIT professor and director of the Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation; and Yosef Zlochower, RIT associate professor, which solved Albert Einstein's strong field equations. The group was one of the first to simulate a black hole on a supercomputer. Their "moving puncture approach" has been adopted by other research groups and helped lay the foundation for gravitational wave astronomy.
"Our supercomputer simulations of black-hole collisions continue to be crucial to determine the astrophysical parameters of those extreme objects and they provide important information for modelling their history, from the death of their progenitor stars to their final merger into a larger black hole", Carlos Lousto stated.
The new detection also cites a 2017 paper written by Carlos Lousto and James Healy, RIT postdoctoral researcher, and a 2014 paper by Carlos Lousto and Yosef Zlochower studying extreme black hole spins and mass ratios.
RIT students listed as authors on the LIGO-Virgo paper include Monica Rizzo, an undergraduate physics major; John Bero, an MS student in the astrophysical sciences and technology graduate programme; and astrophysical sciences and technology Ph.D. students Jacob Lange, Jared Wofford, Daniel Wysocki and recent Ph.D. recipient Yuanhao Ahang.
Educating the next generation of gravitational wave astronomers is taken seriously at RIT's Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation.
"We perform top research integrating faculty, students and postdocs", Manuela Campanelli stated. "With RIT and National Science Foundation support, we are upgrading our supercomputer capabilities to solve Einstein equations for binary black holes."