Confirming a significant prediction made in the special theory of relativity by Albert Einstein in 1916, Russian scientists have captured gravitational waves as part of their LIGO project pioneering a new understanding of space. The advanced Laser Interferometric Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) has achieved the first direct measurement.
A primary source of gravitational waves is a series of astronomical events called compact object mergers, involving the merger of binary systems consisting of neutron stars and/or black holes.
“The actual observation was of a black-hole/black-hole merger. This proves aLIGO can detect these compact mergers. The detection process for neutron-star/neutron-star mergers is the same and our models predict both will occur. Observations of neutron-star/neutron star mergers will help us understand a great deal of physics and astronomy and the prospects for gravitational wave science are extremely exciting,” said Christopher Fryer, Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellow and longtime researcher in this field.
The electromagnetic follow-up, at Los Alamos and elsewhere, focuses on what we can learn from neutron-star/neutron-star mergers. It is this type of phenomenon that computer scientists, physicists and astronomy experts have been exploring, using computers to model the merger’s many components to understand the basic physics more clearly.
“The scientific importance of that fact is immeasurable. Just as it was with electromagnetic waves, we will be able to realize its full meaning later,” says Valery Mitrofanov, the director of LIGO’s Moscow team.
Working with a team of experts from many areas of physics and astronomy, including dense nuclear matter, binary stellar evolution, gamma ray bursts and multi-physics computational modeling, Fryer has focused on determining what we can learn from these gravitational wave detections. The team uses a combination of Newtonian merger calculations, neutron star equation of state studies, and population synthesis simulation to model the outcome of the merger of the two neutron stars.
The researchers determined the statistical likelihood that the remnant from the merger
1) collapses directly to a black hole,
2) collapses to a black hole after a delay, or
3) remains a neutron star.
Whether the core is a black hole or neutron star depends on whether it is more massive than the maximum neutron star mass at its spin rate.
LIGO poject was started in 1992 by Vladimir Braginskiy, one of the pioneers in gravitational waves research. “For the first time in the history of science the waves of spacetime curvature were recorded, this discovery starts a new era in astronomy,” said Prof. Sergey Vyatchanin, professor of the MSU Faculty of Physics.