UK astrophysicists will resume the search for gravitational waves following substantial upgrades to three global detectors.
Gravitational waves are the ripples in spacetime caused by spectacular events in the universe, such as the collisions of black holes. The upgrades mean that they will be able to survey a larger volume of space than ever before for powerful, gravitational wave making events.
The National Science Foundation’s LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) will resume the search for gravitational waves on April 1.
Virgo, the European-based gravitational-wave detector, located at the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO) in Italy will also be joining the search on April 1 after almost doubling its sensitivity since its last run.
The cosmic collisions of black holes
The video from NASA shows a simulated version of two black holes and the resulting emission of gravitational radiation.
Professor Alberto Vecchio, Director of the Institute of Gravitational Wave Astronomy, University of Birmingham, added: “The LIGO and Virgo instruments at this improved sensitivity will survey a volume of the universe about three times as large as the one that has been covered so far. We are going to observe many new cosmic collisions of black holes which will surely give us new information about the properties of these mysterious objects. But what I am really looking forward to is to be surprised: maybe we’ll detect some completely unexpected sources.”
How does LIGO detect gravitational waves?
Future space discoveries
Professor Sheila Rowan is Director of the University of Glasgow’s Institute for Gravitational Research. Rowan commented: “This third run of observations marks an important step forward for the new field of gravitational wave astronomy. The upgraded LIGO-Virgo detectors will allow us to detect signals from further out in the universe, pushing back the boundaries of our understanding and delivering a wealth of new findings which are only possible by listening out for the sounds of those ripples in spacetime.”