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  • News in Brief

    Pulsar pair ripples spacetime

    GENEVA — A dancing duo of cosmic beacons has provided scientists with the most precise measurement, albeit an indirect one, of ripples in spacetime called gravitational waves.

    The measurement comes from analyzing the only known pair of gravitationally bound pulsars, dense cores of dead stars that emit intense beams of radio waves with the regularity of a nearly perfect clock. Michael...

    12/18/2015 - 17:49 Physics, Astronomy
  • Science Ticker

    LISA Pathfinder to pave way for gravitational wave detection

    One small step for metal cubes, one giant leap for general relativity. On December 3 from a launchpad in French Guiana, the European Space Agency successfully launched the LISA Pathfinder mission, a satellite that will test technologies needed for a future space-based gravitational wave detector.

    Ripples in spacetime generated by cataclysmic cosmic events have yet to be directly detected...

    12/03/2015 - 06:59 Astronomy
  • Feature

    Using general relativity to magnify the cosmos

    One of the most powerful known magnifying lenses isn’t found on Earth. The lens is built from stars, gas and dark matter and lies about 4 billion light-years away. As astronomers peer through it, they are finding the seeds of galaxies that were scattered around the universe more than 13 billion years ago.

    The lens is known as Abell 2744, a cosmic pileup where four groups of galaxies are...

    10/06/2015 - 12:38 Astronomy, Cosmology, Physics
  • News

    Black hole collisions evade detection

    Supermassive black hole duos are awfully quiet. Searches for spacetime ripples radiating away from these spiraling monsters are coming up empty, a new study reports. The silence is providing hints of the complex interactions at play in the final stage of galaxy collisions.

    When galaxies collide, the gargantuan black holes in their cores sidle up to one another. As the two spiral together...

    09/24/2015 - 14:00 Astronomy
  • News in Brief

    Pair of black holes prepare to take the plunge

    SEATTLE — Two supermassive black holes are preparing to face off in the center of a distant galaxy. The cuddled-up pair are closer to each other than any other known black hole duo, providing astronomers a first peek at the final stages of a possible collision.

    The two black holes live roughly 3.7 billion light-years away in a quasar, the ferociously bright core of a galaxy lit up by...

    01/09/2015 - 14:11 Astronomy
  • News

    Single black hole may be masquerading as a pair

    One telescope giveth, another taketh away. Astronomers may have been seeing double when they recently announced the discovery of a pair of supermassive black holes at the heart of a galaxy collision. New observations of the same galaxy suggest that the duo may instead be one lonely black hole blasting the surrounding space with two jets of charged particles. 

    At the center of the...

    08/06/2014 - 15:38 Astronomy
  • News

    Rare trio of supermassive black holes found

    Where two distant galaxies collide, three supermassive black holes engage in a gravitational dance. Two of the black holes embrace in a tight orbit, spinning out jets of gas, while the third waits off to the side. Observations of the trio demonstrate that swirling jets can help astronomers find hidden black hole pairs. The finding also suggests that these pairs may be more common than...

    06/25/2014 - 15:51 Astronomy
  • Reviews & Previews

    Gravity’s Ghost and Big Dog

    Roughly 50 kilometers east of Baton Rouge, La., lasers ricochet off mirrors that dangle at the ends of a 4-kilometer-long, L-shaped vacuum tube. A nearly identical facility sits almost 3,000 kilometers away in Washington state. The research stations — part of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO — are designed to sense gravitational waves, minuscule...

    05/04/2014 - 10:00 Physics
  • News

    Unusual three-star system promises new test of gravity

    A unique threesome of stars locked in tight, circular orbits could help astronomers test the leading theory of gravity to unprecedented precision. The discovery of the celestial trio is reported January 5 in Nature.

    “We should be grateful to the universe for making such things,” says Paulo Freire, an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, who...

    01/06/2014 - 16:19 Astronomy
  • Feature

    Lasing Beyond Light

    View a list of some of the world's leading laser facilities at the bottom of this article.

    Lasers and light seem as inseparable as snow and cold: If you have one, you have to have the other. From presentation pointers to Darth Vader’s lightsaber, lasers have become synonymous with brightly colored beams of visible light.

    But it wasn’t...

    04/23/2010 - 15:42 Physics, Technology