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The detection of gravitational waves, a historical landmark
12/02/2016
 
LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory) has just announced the detection of gravitational waves for the first time, almost a hundred years later of Einstein’s prediction.

This announcement “opens new window on the Universe with observation of gravitational waves from colliding black holes”, as indicated in LIGO’s official press release. The Relativity and Gravitation Group at the Universitat de les Illes Balears, associated to IEEC, is the only research group in Spain participation in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, under the direction of Alicia Sintes.

equipo UIB

A historial landmark

“The announcement of LIGO is a historic landmark that ushers in a new era in Astronomy: now begins the Astronomy of gravitational waves as an experimental and observational scientific discipline. We can already say that we have a new cosmic Messenger that tells us about the history and structure of the universe: gravity in the form of gravitational waves”, notes Carlos F. Sopuerta, principal investigator of the Group of LISA-gravitational astronomy of the Institute of Space Sciences (CSIC-IEEC).

gravitional wavs

“We hope that this great achievement will boost the development of this field and we also hope that soon it will be followed by the success of other detectors such as the Observatory for gravitational waves of ESA. The LISA gravitational astronomy group of ICE (IEEC-CISC) expects to play a leading role in this future observatory.

Detection of gravitational waves from the Earth and from space

In a similar way to what happens with light and its different types (visible, infrared, radio, x-rays…), there are also different types of gravitational waves. LIGO and other terrestrial detectors operating in the high frequency band, from where you can see (or better: “listen”) collisions of binary systems containing neutron stars and black holes of stellar origin, explosions of supernovas, pulsars, etc.

However, to access the low frequency band, it is necessary to have an Observatory in space because the seismic noise and variations in the Earth’s gravitational field preclude the observation of gravitational waves below 1 Hz. The low frequency band is very rich in science, since it allows to observe phenomena like the collision of supermassive black holes (with millions times the mass of the Sun), the capture of compact stellar objects by supermassive black holes and thousands of ultra-compact binary systems in our own galaxy (in addition to possible background gravitational radiation of cosmological origin).

The European Space Agency has approved its third mission of large class (L3) is a space observatory for gravitational waves, and that is the reason why it has developed a precursor mission that will show the principal technology for the Observatory, the LISA Pathfinder Mission.

LISA Pathfinder

LISA Pathfinder was launched on 3 December day in 2015 and is currently at the Lagrange L1 point getting ready to begin scientific experiments in March this year.

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The LISA-Gravitational Astronomy group of the Institute of Sciences of space (IEEC-CSIC) is responsible for the Spanish contribution to LISA Pathfinder Mission. They have contributed to the data and diagnostics subsystem (a computer that controls the experiment, and sensors and actuators of high accuracy and stability for thermal and magnetic analysis and detection of charged particles). In addition, the group is in an excellent position to play a significant role in the future ESA gravitational wave Space Observatory.

Dark Energy Survey collaborates with LIGO

The Dark Energy Survey (DES), a project including the participation of several members of the Institute of Space Sciences (IEEC-CSIC) has a collaboration agreement with LIGO. DES participates in the optical follow-up of gravitational wavs triggers through it DECam camera, the most powerful of its kind right now.

Three papers from this collaboration were also published yesterday, with participation of Francisco Castander, Pablo Fosalba, Martin Crocce, and Enrique Gaztañaga, members of ICE (IEEC-CSIC).
 
Attached Documents
Generalitat de CatalunyaUniversitat de BarcelonaUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaUniversitat Politècnica de CatalunyaConsejo Superior de Investigaciones CientíficasCentres de Recerca de Catalunya