Unraveling the mysteries of the cosmos with fast gravitational wave detection

An international team led by University of Minnesota researchers has advanced gravitational wave detection technology to send alerts within 30 seconds of detection. This rapid detection system facilitates the study of neutron stars and black holes and the creation of heavier elements.

A new study could improve detection of gravitational waves—ripples in space and time. The research was led by an international team of scientists from the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities College of Science and Engineering.

The research aims to send alerts to astronomers and astrophysicists within 30 seconds of detection, helping to improve understanding of how neutron stars and black holes and heavy elements including gold and uranium are produced.

The findings were recently published Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS), a peer-reviewed, open-access, scientific journal.

Gravitational wave detection technology

Gravitational waves interact with spacetime by compressing in one direction while stretching vertically. That's why current state-of-the-art gravitational wave detectors are L-shaped and measure the relative length of the laser using interferometry, a measurement method that looks at the interference patterns created by the combination of two light sources. detection Gravitational waves Accurate measurements require measuring the length of the laser: to the width of a human hair, equivalent to measuring the distance to the nearest star, four light-years away.

Gravitational wave detection delay diagram

The graph shows the time it takes researchers to send an alert, with the average alert time being under 30 seconds. Credit: Andrew Toivonen

Improvements in Gravitational Wave Detection

This is part of the research LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA (LVK) Collaboration, a worldwide network of gravitational wave interferometers.

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In a recent simulation campaign, data from previous monitoring periods were used and simulated gravitational wave signals were added to show the effectiveness of software and equipment upgrades. The software can detect the shape of the signals, track how the signal behaves, and estimate what mass is added to the event, such as neutron stars or black holes. Neutron stars are the smallest, most dense stars known to exist, and are formed when massive stars explode in supernovae.

Real-time alerts and monitoring developments

When the software detects a gravitational wave signal, it sends alerts to subscribers, usually astronomers or astrophysicists, to communicate where the signal is in the sky. With this improved observation period, scientists can send warnings as fast as 30 seconds after detecting a gravitational wave.

„With this software, we can detect gravitational waves Neutron star Collisions that are usually too faint to see unless you know exactly where to look,” said Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities School of Physics and Astronomy. „Detecting gravitational waves first helps detect the collision and help astronomers and astrophysicists complete further research.”

Astronomers and astrophysicists can use this information to understand how neutron stars work, nuclear reactions where neutron stars and black holes collide, and how heavy elements including gold and uranium are produced.

This is the fourth observing run using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and will continue observing until February 2025. Between the last three observing periods, scientists have made progress in detecting the signals. Once this monitoring run is complete, the researchers will continue to look at the data and make further improvements with the goal of sending alerts even faster.

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Reference: „Low Latency Gravitational Wave Warning Products and Their Performance During the Fourth LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA Observing Run” by Sushant Sharma Chowdhury, Andrew Toivonen, Gaurav Varadkar, Jeffrey Mo, Deep Chatterjee, Sarah Antier, Michael, 2005; W. Coughlin, Reed Essick, Shaon Ghosh, Soichiro Morisaki, Pratyusava Baral, Amanda Baylor, Naresh Adhikari, Patrick Brady, Gareth Cabourn Davies, Tito Dal Canton, Marco Cavaglia, Jolien Creighton, Sunil Cuanglear Chu Yu-Kuanglear, Luke Davis, Thomas Dent, Marco Drago, Becca Ewing, Patrick Godwin, Weisangfeng Guo, Chad Hanna, Rachel Huxford, Ian Harry, Eric Katsounidis, Manoj Kovalam, Alvin KY Li, Ryan Maggis, Duncan Maggis, Ethan Margis-Atkinson, Alexander Pace, Roberto Di Pietri , Brandon Piotrkowski, Saumen Roy, Surabi Sachdev, Leo P. Singer, Divya Singh, Marek Szepanczyk, Daniel Tang, Max Trevor, Leo Sukata, Veronica, Linkwing, Villa-Ordegan April 23, 2024, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2316474121

In addition to Toivonen, the multi-institutional paper includes Michael Coughlin, an assistant professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota.

LIGO is funded by the National Science Foundation, and operated by Caltech with. More than 1,200 scientists and about 100 institutions from around the world are involved in this effort LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

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