GW151226: Observation of Gravitational Waves from a 22 Solar-mass Binary Black Hole Coalescence

Figure 1. (Adapted from figure 1 of our publication). The gravitational wave event GW151226 as observed by the twin Advanced LIGO instruments: LIGO Hanford (left) and LIGO Livingston (right). The images show the data recorded by the detectors during the last second before merger as the signal varies as a function of time (in seconds) and frequency (in Hertz or the number of wave cycles per second). To be certain that a real gravitational wave has been observed, we compare the data from the detectors against a pre-defined set of models for merging binaries. This allows us to find gravitational wave signals which are buried deep in the noise from the instruments and nearly impossible to find by eye. The animation shows the detector data with and without removing the best-matching model gravitational-wave signal, making it much easier to identify. The signal can be seen sweeping up in frequency as the two black holes spiral together. This signal is much more difficult to spot by eye than the first detection GW150914!

Figure 1. (Adapted from figure 1 of our publication). The gravitational wave event GW151226 as observed by the twin Advanced LIGO instruments: LIGO Hanford (left) and LIGO Livingston (right). The images show the data recorded by the detectors during the last second before merger as the signal varies as a function of time (in seconds) and frequency (in Hertz or the number of wave cycles per second). To be certain that a real gravitational wave has been observed, we compare the data from the detectors against a pre-defined set of models for merging binaries. This allows us to find gravitational wave signals which are buried deep in the noise from the instruments and nearly impossible to find by eye. The animation shows the detector data with and without removing the best-matching model gravitational-wave signal, making it much easier to identify. The signal can be seen sweeping up in frequency as the two black holes spiral together. This signal is much more difficult to spot by eye than the first detection GW150914!

A few months after the first detection of gravitational waves from the black hole merger event GW150914, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) has made another observation of gravitational waves from the collision and merger of a pair of black holes. This signal, called GW151226, arrived at the LIGO detectors on 26 December 2015 at 03:38:53 UTC.

The signal, which came from a distance of around 1.4 billion light-years, was an example of a compact binary coalescence, when two extremely dense objects merge. Binary systems like this are one of many sources of gravitational waves for which the LIGO detectors are searching. Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time itself and carry energy away from such a binary system, causing the two objects to spiral towards each other as they orbit. This inspiral brings the objects closer and closer together until they merge. The gravitational waves produced by the binary stretch and squash space-time as they spread out through the universe. It is this stretching and squashing that can be detected by observatories like Advanced LIGO, and used to reveal information about the sources which created the gravitational waves.

GW151226 is the second definitive observation of a merging binary black hole system detected by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and Virgo Collaboration. Together with GW150914, this event marks the beginning of gravitational-wave astronomy as a revolutionary new means to explore the frontiers of our Universe….

Read more at: http://www.ligo.org/science/Publication-GW151226/index.php#sthash.GM0EB4ib.dpuf>

Relativity Gets Thorough Vetting from LIGO

The gravitational wave signal observed by the LIGO detectors shows no deviation from what general relativity predicts.

Figure 1: The signal from one of the LIGO detectors in Hanford, Washington, is shown with two representations of the best-fit numerical relativity (NR) waveform. The filtered NR waveform illustrates how the raw waveform is perceived by the detector, showing that for GW150914 the instrument was most sensitive to the late-inspiral, merger, and ringdown of the event (data and analysis scripts from Ref.[9]).

The signal from one of the LIGO detectors in Hanford, Washington, is shown with two representations of the best-fit numerical relativity (NR) waveform. The filtered NR waveform illustrates how the raw waveform is perceived by the detector, showing that for GW150914 the instrument was most sensitive to the late-inspiral, merger, and ringdown of the event

Read more at http://physics.aps.org/articles/v9/52

Detecting “Christodoulou memory effect” with LIGO

Detecting gravitational-wave memory with LIGO: implications of GW150914

 Gravitational-wave strain time series using parameters consistent with GW150914

Gravitational-wave strain time series using parameters consistent with GW150914

Paul D. Lasky, Eric Thrane, Yuri Levin, Jonathan Blackman, Yanbei Chen

It may soon be possible for Advanced LIGO to detect hundreds of binary black hole mergers per year. We show how the accumulation of many such measurements will allow for the detection of gravitational-wave memory: a permanent displacement of spacetime that comes from strong-field, general relativistic effects. We estimate that Advanced LIGO operating at design sensitivity may be able to make a signal-to-noise ratio 3(5) detection of memory with 35(90) events with masses and distance similar to GW150914. Given current merger rate estimates (of one such event per 16 days), this could happen in as few as 1.5(4) years of coincident data collection. We highlight the importance of incorporating higher-order gravitational-wave modes for parameter estimation of binary black hole mergers, and describe how our methods can also be used to detect higher-order modes themselves before Advanced LIGO reaches design sensitivity.

Read more at http://arxiv.org/pdf/1605.01415v1.pdf

The First Sounds of Merging Black Holes

A schematic depiction of LIGO’s interferometric gravitational wave detector. Light from a laser is split in two by a beam splitter; one half travels down the vertical arm of the interferometer, the other half travels down the horizontal arm. The detector is designed so that in the absence of gravitational waves (top left) the light takes the same time to travel back and forth along the two arms and interferes destructively at the photodetector, producing no signal. As the wave passes (moving clockwise from top right) the travel times for the lasers change, and a signal appears in the photodetector. (The actual distortions are extremely small, but are exaggerated here for easier viewing.) Inset: The elongations in a ring of particles show the effects of a gravitational wave on spacetime. [Credit: APS/Alan Stonebraker]

A schematic depiction of LIGO’s interferometric gravitational wave detector. Light from a laser is split in two by a beam splitter; one half travels down the vertical arm of the interferometer, the other half travels down the horizontal arm. The detector is designed so that in the absence of gravitational waves (top left) the light takes the same time to travel back and forth along the two arms and interferes destructively at the photodetector, producing no signal. As the wave passes (moving clockwise from top right) the travel times for the lasers change, and a signal appears in the photodetector. (The actual distortions are extremely small, but are exaggerated here for easier viewing.) Inset: The elongations in a ring of particles show the effects of a gravitational wave on spacetime. [Credit: APS/Alan Stonebraker]

Emanuele Berti
Gravitational waves emitted by the merger of two black holes have been detected, setting the course for a new era of observational astrophysics.

For decades, scientists have hoped they could “listen in” on violent astrophysical events by detecting their emission of gravitational waves.
The waves, which can be described as oscillating distortions in the geometry of spacetime, were first predicted to exist by Einstein in 1916, but they have never been observed directly. Now, in an extraordinary paper, scientists report that they have detected the waves at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO)….
…read more at http://arxiv.org/pdf/1602.04476v1.pdf