Latest in Science

Image credit: Getty Images / iStockphoto

Computer simulations point to the source of gravitational waves

The ripples detected last September came from a collision of two black holes that happened over a billion years ago.
349 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share

Sponsored Links

Getty Images / iStockphoto

Since the first gravitational waves were successfully detected last September by the earthbound Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), scientists have wondered what made them. Today, researchers from the University of Warsaw published a theory suggesting that they were likely created by the collision of two black holes, which had been stars that formed 12 billion years ago.

They arrived at that cause and date by modeling the birth of the universe. The researchers plugged stars and data into the computer simulation Synthetic Universe and ran it until they encountered an event that would possibly have emanated the actual gravitational waves. In this case, the culprit was likely a recent merger of two black holes made soon after the dawn of the universe.

"We play God," lead study author Chris Belczynski, an astrophysicist at Warsaw University, told The Verge. "We have a model of the entire Universe in our computer. We populate the computer with stars from the beginning, from the Big Bang, and you let them go ahead, evolve, produce black holes, etc."

Since Synthetic Universe's simulation also includes a mock-LIGO to chronologically sync when we detected the waves, the model is also predictive, the study argues. If correct, we should see LIGO pick up to 60 detections when it starts "listening" for the waves again in fall. At its peak sensitivity, it could hear up to 1,000 detections annually.

Belczynski's speculation specifies the size of black hole mergers that the LIGO should be able to detect from gravitational waves, a combined mass between 20 and 80 times the mass of our sun. That large size indicates that they're likely from just after the Big Bang, when stars had lower metal content and formed proportionately larger black holes.

Belczynski's model strongly suggests that the ones that collided to make these gravitational waves were stars that formed 12 billion years ago, became black holes 5 million years later, and then merged 10.3 billion years after that. 1.2 billion years later LIGO detected those reverberations in space-time. As more data comes in to LIGO and other detectors from these gravitational waves, the more Belczynski can refine his Synthetic Universe model and theorize the life cycles of stars.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
349 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

Google Duplex begins international rollout with a New Zealand pilot

Google Duplex begins international rollout with a New Zealand pilot

View
The Morning After: A final trailer for 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'

The Morning After: A final trailer for 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'

View
Todoist 'Foundations' update adds a host of organization features

Todoist 'Foundations' update adds a host of organization features

View
Microsoft's latest VR experiment is a literal walk in the park

Microsoft's latest VR experiment is a literal walk in the park

View
Lilium proves its electric air taxi can fly

Lilium proves its electric air taxi can fly

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr