Ripples in Spacetime: Unravel the Mystery of Gravity Waves

Black Hole Merger Gravitational Waves Concept Illustration


Black Hole A combination of the concept of gravitational waves.

When black holes collide, they create gravitational waves that can be detected on Earth. Although theories by Einstein in 1916, they were not directly observed until 2015. Modern research has compared old models with new data, showing that these waves are interactive. This knowledge refines our model and faces the full scope of general relations in explaining the properties of black holes.

When two black holes collide, the impact is so great that we can all find them on Earth. These objects are so large that their collisions transmit vibrations through space itself. Scientists call these waves Gravity waves. Although Albert Einstein predicted the concept of gravitational waves in 1916, physicists did not discover it directly until 2015 at Ligo (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory). Scientists backed by the Energy Department of the Office of Science, along with other federal agencies, are now working to better understand these gravitational waves and what they can tell us about black holes.

The complexity of hitting a black hole

Along with extreme force, these collisions have incredibly complex physics. To be accurate, computer simulation must be complex as well. The simulation must include every step of the process: the black holes that rotate towards each other, the merging becomes distortion. Black holeAnd then fall into a single black hole. The process is so complex that scientists need modern computers to run simulations.

Two Black Holes Combine eXtreme Spacetimes Simulation

Two black holes are about to merge in this, still from simulations produced by Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes or SXS, a collaboration using modern computers. As black holes rotate, they form waves in space and time called gravitational waves. Credits: SXS Lensing / Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes Collaboration

Physicists then compare the numerical data from these simulations to the process model. Older versions of the model showed no gravitational waves or interactions with each other. However, scientists have suspected that this is not the case. Think of two people standing side by side in a pool making waves. If each of them produces very small waves, the waves will not interfere with each other. They will die before they interact. But if two people make big waves, the waves will collide and form a new wave. Knowing that collisions create strong gravitational waves, scientists thought they would interact with each other, it just was not shown.

New understanding of gravitational wave interactions

Researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Columbia University, the University of Mississippi, Cornell University, and the Max Planck Institute for Gravity Physics conducted a more detailed analysis of these numerical results. This analysis showed evidence of relative gravitational waves as expected. Each wave causes the others to change slightly. Interactions create new wave types with their independent frequencies. These new waves are smaller, more chaotic, and more unpredictable than the original. By incorporating this feature in the model, scientists can more accurately describe what numerical results tell them.

LIGO Livingston Laboratory

LIGO Livingston Laboratory. Credit: LIGO Laboratory

Adding these interactions to the model of the colliding black holes will make the model more accurate. On the other hand, these examples will help us to better understand real-world observations. The more accurate the models, the more useful they are for interpreting data from LIGO.

In addition, better models can help scientists understand whether general relativity is the right theory to explain what really happens in a black hole. While the general relation, the famous theory developed by Einstein, explains extensively how gravity affects space time, this theory applies well to the strange properties of black holes still being determined.

Meaning for our understanding of the universe

The black hole crash is far from the earth and our daily lives unimaginable. While we can not feel the gravitational waves on our own, the data and patterns created by scientists are expanding our knowledge of these incredible phenomena on a daily basis.

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