Science

Hums In Interstellar Space Could Reveal Hidden Black Holes

Scientists have been studying hums in interstellar space that have revealed that every few minutes a pair of black holes collide against each other. The collisions between two black holes create ripples in space which are known as gravitational waves. A new technique that scientists have developed might help them detect new black holes hidden in deep space by listening for these hums in interstellar space from the gravitational waves.

The discovery of gravitational waves is one of the biggest discoveries of the 21st century. LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) and Virgo Collaboration researchers successfully detected and measured Gravitational Waves coming from two merging neutron stars.

Hums In Interstellar Space
Image source: YouTube Video Screenshot

Eric Thrane and Rory Smith of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) and Monash University participated in this breakthrough discovery.  They were also part of the team that detected the first gravitational-wave in 2015, generated by two colliding black holes in interstellar space. The detection also confirms Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity.

Until now, there have been six confirmed gravitational-wave events that have been announced by the LIGO and Virgo Collaborations. Still, according to Thrane, there have are more than 100,000 gravitational wave events that happen throughout a year, although they are too distant for LIGO and Virgo to detect them.

The findings were published in the Physical Review X, a U.S. based journal. In the paper, researchers described the newly developed method for sensitive tracking of the gravitational waves.

“Measuring the gravitational-wave background will allow us to study populations of black holes at vast distances. Someday, the technique may enable us to see gravitational waves from the Big Bang, hidden behind gravitational waves from black holes and neutron stars,” Thrane said in a statement.

To closely describe it, the researchers made computer simulations that resemble faint black hole signals. Those simulations are capable of gathering masses of data until they are absolutely certain that they are faint black holes signals, hidden behind hums in interstellar space. Smith said, as per the statement, that the improvements that are affecting data analysis will vastly improve their research by allowing them to detect “what people had spent decades looking for.” Their new method of searching is likely going to be a thousand times more sensitive, as opposed to previous methods.

However, in order to make their new method a reality, the researchers will need access to OzSTAR, a $4 million machine released last month as part of a project at the Swinburne University of Technology. Scientists will use OzSTAR to look for gravitational waves searching LIGO data.

“It is 125,000 times more powerful than the first supercomputer I built at the institution in 1998,” OzGRAV director, Matthew Bailies said in a statement.

The OzStar computer is not like most of the other 13,000 computers that the LIGO community uses for research, according to Smith. It has notable differences even compared to those at CalTech and MIT. Using graphical processor units instead of central processing units like most other traditional computers helps scientists access some data much faster, given that GPUs are hundreds of times faster which can help track distant hums in interstellar space.

“By harnessing the power of GPUs, OzStar has the potential to make big discoveries in gravitational-wave astronomy,” Dr Smith said.