New Horizons in Science

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A report from the front lines of multimessenger astronomy

Topic: Astrophysics
Gravitational-wave signals detected by LIGO-Virgo network
Gravitational-wave signals detected by LIGO-Virgo network
Sunday, October 27, 2019 -
4:30pm to 5:30pm

Although half a century in the making, the field of gravitational wave astrophysics is suddenly moving rapidly and contributing to the flowering of so-called multi-messenger astronomy, where signals from many wavelengths combine to paint a vivid picture of a massive event in the universe. By the end of their second observing run in 2018, the US-based LIGO gravitational-wave observatory and the Virgo observatory in Italy were detecting these subtle distortions in spacetime roughly every two weeks. ScienceWriters2019 will take place during another LIGO-Virgo observing run that launched in April 2019, one with increased sensitivity and a new automated event alert system in place. Chad Hanna, who studies binary star mergers, will provide an update on discoveries being enabled by automated multimessenger astronomy, where computers rapidly analyze detection data and send worldwide public alerts, triggering telescopes to immediately scan the same patch of sky for signals in other wavelengths. One new tool is the Penn State-based effort AMON (for Astrophysical Multimessenger Observatory Network), which looks for "sub-threshold" correlations across instruments, signals that are too weak to trigger any single instrument but might prove significant when data are combined.


Gravitational-wave signals detected by LIGO-Virgo network. Image (modified): LIGO/Virgo/NASA/Leo Singer/Axel Mellinger (CC BY 4.0)


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