Astronomers from Cardiff University have created a guide to help adventurers spot hundreds of black holes. The secret? Gravitational waves.
According to scientists, these waves are largely created when black holes collide with other objects within the universe. Although they cannot be physically seen, it to find the residues of these black hole collisions by utilizing a hi-tech detector, known as Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatories (LIGO).
According to the leader of the project, Dr. Mark Hannam from the School of Physics and Astronomy, the fast rotation of these supermassive black holes – considered to be at the center of most galaxies – causes the orbits to wobble.
“These wobbles can make the black holes trace out wild paths around each other, leading to extremely complicated gravitational-wave signals”, said Hannam.
He goes on to state, “Sometimes the orbits of these spinning black holes look completely tangled up, like a ball of string.”
But if you envision spinning around with the black holes, the image becomes a lot more organized, allowing scientists to write down equations to describe what is happening. Dr. Hannam offers us a comparison to explain the phenomenon, “It’s like watching a kid on a high-speed spinning amusement park ride, apparently waving their hands around.” Although from the side lines, it may be impossible to tell what they’re doing, by sitting next to them, you might that they are actually seated perfectly still, simply giving you the thumbs up.
These equations – deemed the ‘spotter’s guide’ – form the basis for the LIGO theoretical model, which has already been programmed into computer codes. Once the detectors are switched on in the United States in 2015, scientists from all over the world will be able to utilize the model. In this manner, researchers will be able to predict and find the signals in the detector data, when searching for black-hole mergers.
For Dr. Hannam, this will certainly be an unprecedented event in space history. For years, researchers have questioned how to untangle black-hole movements. The data that is collected may ultimately help scientists reveal the secrets of the Universe.