• Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

LIGO’s Latest Observing Run Aims to Transform Gravitational Wave Detection – Transcontinental Times

LIGO’s Latest Observing Run Aims to Transform Gravitational Wave Detection – Transcontinental Times

America: In a quest to unravel the mysteries of the universe, researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) have launched Observation Run 4 (O4), a ground-breaking endeavor that aims to revolutionize the detection of gravitational waves.

Astronomers hope that with upgraded detectors, O4 will make seeing these waves a regular occurrence in the fabric of space-time, expanding our understanding of space.

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Almost seven years have passed since LIGO scientists first announced their groundbreaking detection of gravitational waves. Since then, the list of gravitational wave candidates has grown to nearly 100, showing the potential for further exploration and discovery.

The acceleration of massive objects, such as two black holes, spinning into a catastrophic merger creates gravitational waves. O4 marks the beginning of a new chapter for the LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA (LVK) collaboration.

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This multinational effort combines four detectors on three continents: LIGO’s two detectors in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington; Virgin of Europe, located southeast of Pisa, Italy; and Kagra, located beneath the mountains of central Japan.

Although LIGO’s detectors are fully operational, Virgo is currently undergoing maintenance to fix a damaged mirror and will remain inactive for an indefinite period.

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Kagra, on the other hand, will be monitored for a month before going offline again with plans to resume operations by the end of 2024. The importance of having multiple detectors lies in their ability to triangulate the source of gravitational waves.

A single detector cannot accurately determine the direction in which the waves originate. With all four detectors working in unison, astronomers can pinpoint the source to within a few square degrees of the sky.

However, even with two detectors, scientists can still make significant progress. The detectors’ improved sensitivity allows them to detect weaker or more distant gravitational waves, increasing the number of events that can be observed. One of the primary goals of O4 is to answer the question of where Black holes What LIGO discovers takes shape.

Are they born inside galaxies, globular clusters or dwarf galaxies? Or do they have a primordial origin dating back to the birth of the universe? Scientists need a sizable dataset, which they can get by capturing many events to find answers.

Astronomer Salvatore Vitale of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is optimistic about O4’s potential.

He expects the observational run to yield more frequent detections every few months, moving from a neutron star every week or ten days to a binary black hole every day or two and a neutron star every week.

LVK’s current plan is to continue O4 for 18 months till 2025. After that, the detectors will undergo upgrades and engineering work as they prepare for a fifth, longer observing run, scheduled for 2027.

As O4 develops, scientists hope the upgraded detectors will push the boundaries of our understanding of the universe and unlock a wealth of scientific knowledge.

By observing and studying gravitational waves, researchers can probe deeper into the origin and nature of massive objects, uncovering cosmic secrets.

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