New technique for detecting cosmic hum of 100,000 black-hole mergers

Stephen Hawking's greatest breakthroughs: Black holes, event horizons & more

Space is that entire thing which is cold, heartwarming, mysterious, and inarguably beautiful. A few years ago the initial gravitational waves were discovered by the astronomers. They were basically the ripples in space-time, which propagate outward from violent cosmic events like the merger of black holes. A sum of six gravitational-wave events has been confirmed since then. Some astronomers are already getting agitated despite the individuality of this new method for investigating the universe.

Two researchers specifically have moved from detecting individual gravitational-wave events to the larger picture. In a published paper, the researchers showcase a highly sensitive new technique for locating the faint hum of around 100,000 gravitational-wave events which are believed to take place in the universe every year. Although the technique would not let them hone in on particular gravitational-wave events, yet it would give them the data they require to put constraints on both the rate of merger and distribution of black holes throughout the universe.

In accordance with the published paper, a pair of stellar mass black holes merges somewhere in the Universe in every 2-10 minutes. A tiny portion of these mergers is located as individually resolvable gravitational-wave events by advanced detectors like Virgo and LIGO.  The rest of the waves, however, get jumbled together, making a faint cosmic buzz known as the gravitational-wave background.

Co-author Eric Thrane, an astrophysicist from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery and Monash University said in a press release that measuring the gravitational-wave background would allow them to study populations of black holes at great distances. He further added that the technique may someday enable them to see gravitational waves from the Big Bang, hidden behind gravitational waves from black holes and neutron stars.

The new technique for the detection of the long-sought-after hum of countless gravitational waves is dependent on the sifting through seas of noisy data and teasing out any signals coming from the black holes hidden previously. But in order to do that, the researchers require an extremely powerful supercomputer. The new supercomputer worth 4 million dollars known as OzStar is best suited for the purpose. In accordance with a statement from the director of OzGrav, Matthew Bailes, in one second, the machine could perform 10,000 calculations for every one of the 100 billion stars in the galaxy. Further, he added that it is 125,000 times more powerful than the first supercomputer he built at the institution in the year 1998. The researchers, with the collaboration of their innovative technique and the powerful device, estimate that the new method for the detection of gravitational waves would be 1,000 times more sensitive than the other detectors.

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Kanishk Singh

Kanishk Singh, co-founder, and editor-in-chief at The TeCake, has forayed in the Science and Space for over five years, he enjoys his stint as an editor of several local magazines. He has written several editorials and high-level documentations.

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