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  • Feature

    Year in review: Gravitational waves offer new cosmic views

    The secrets gleaned from the universe’s most mysterious giants are incongruously subtle when witnessed at Earth: Detectors budge by a tiny fraction of a proton’s breadth, outputting a feeble, birdlike chirp.

    For centuries, astronomers have peered out into the universe almost exclusively by observing its light. But 2016’s announcement of the first detection of gravitational waves,...

    12/14/2016 - 07:41 Physics, Astronomy
  • News

    LIGO’s black holes may be dark matter

    The black holes that produced the first detected gravitational waves may have exotic origins in the early universe.

    When the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, LIGO, glimpsed gravitational waves from two merging black holes, scientists were surprised at how large the black holes were — about 30 times the mass of the sun (SN: 3/5/16, p. 6). Inspired by this...

    08/07/2016 - 07:00 Physics
  • News

    More events needed to pin down gravitational waves backstory

    SAN DIEGO — While astrophysicists celebrate the second detection of ripples in spacetime (SN Online: 6/15/16), they are also looking ahead to figuring out what led to these cosmic quakes. Black holes colliding in remote galaxies sent the gravitational waves our way. But how these duos ended up in an ill-fated embrace in the first place is unknown.

    With only two clear detections from the...

    06/19/2016 - 07:00 Physics, Astronomy
  • News

    Second gravitational wave signal detected

    For the second time, scientists have glimpsed elusive ripples that vibrate the fabric of space. A new observation of gravitational waves, announced by scientists with the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, LIGO, follows their first detection, reported earlier this year (SN: 3/5/16, p. 6). The second detection further opens a new window through which to observe the...

    06/15/2016 - 13:15 Physics, Astronomy
  • News

    How to make gravitational waves ‘sing’

    SALT LAKE CITY — When black holes collide, astronomers expect to record a gravitational wave “chirp.” But rapidly spinning black holes, like the one featured in the 2014 film Interstellar, might prefer singing to chirping.

    According to the calculations of Caltech physicist Kip Thorne, who served as scientific consultant for Interstellar, the movie’s black hole, known as Gargantua, must...

    04/20/2016 - 09:30 Cosmology
  • News

    Faint gravitational waves could soon be on LIGO’s radar

    A conspicuous “chirp” heralded the first detection of gravitational waves. But some future measurements could be more like hushed murmurs.

    Scientists may soon be able to tease out a faint signal of gravitational waves from black hole collisions too distant to be detected directly, scientists with LIGO, the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, report in the April...

    04/01/2016 - 11:15 Physics, Astronomy
  • Say What?

    Black hole smashup generated yottawatts of power

    Yottawatt \YOT-ah-wat\ n.:  1 million billion billion watts

    That’s a lotta watts. And a lot more — 3.6 x 1049 watts,  or 36 septillion yottawatts — blasted out of the black hole collision that the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory detected in September. Rather than a flash of light, the power came out as ripples in spacetime. As the black holes merged, three suns’...

    03/10/2016 - 10:00 Astronomy, Physics
  • News

    Black hole heavyweights triggered gravity wave event

    The recent detection of gravitational waves is a stunning confirmation of Albert Einstein’s theories and the start of a new way of observing the universe. And at the center of it all is a celebrity couple: the first known pairing of black holes and the most massive ones found outside of the cores of galaxies.

    On September 14, the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave...

    02/17/2016 - 12:34 Astronomy, Physics
  • Context

    Gravity waves exemplify the power of intelligent equations

    It isn’t often that physics produces news that diverts the mainstream media from politics, crime and sports. But, now, in the space of four years’ time, physicists have twice elevated the intellectual content of Google News listings: with the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012, and now the detection of the spacetime vibrations known as gravitational waves.

    Finding the Higgs shored up...

    02/16/2016 - 15:56 Physics, History of Science
  • Context

    ‘Gravity waves’ is an OK way to refer to gravitational radiation

    It’s OK to call them “gravity waves.”

    Purists insist that the spacetime ripples just discovered by the Advanced LIGO observatories should be called “gravitational” waves. Which in itself is just a shorthand way of saying radiation of gravitational energy via oscillations in the fabric of spacetime. Further shortening that to “gravity wave” is considered by some to be scientifically...

    02/11/2016 - 15:54 Physics, Astronomy