The Gravitational-wave Optical Transient Observer (GOTO) located on the Canary Islands has officially been launched. The state of the art telescope has reportedly been constructed to detect gravitational waves’ optical signatures.
According to a press release by the University of Warwick, GOTO is an intelligent, autonomous telescope that will look out for unusual activities in the sky after receiving alerts from gravitational wave detectors like the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (aLIGO). Incidentally, the first direct detections of gravitational waves were secured by aLIGO.
Gravitational waves are ripples in the space-time fabric. They are generated when enormous bodies, such as neutron stars or black holes, orbit one another and merge at very high speeds. The resultant waves radiate through the universe at the speed of light.
Studying gravitational waves gives scientists important clues about the source from which they originated, as well as help them know more about the nature of gravity itself. The phenomenon itself was first predicted by most celebrated physicist Albert Einstein more than a century ago. Gravitational waves have only been directly detected in the last two years. Astronomers now want to relate the signals from these waves with electromagnetic spectrum signatures like an optical light.
The aim of GOTO is to look for optical signatures related to gravitational waves as soon as possible so that scientists can investigate them and know about their sources with satellites and telescopes before the waves fade away. The telescope is the most recent addition to the University of Warwick’s astronomical facility at La Palma in the Canary Islands.
“We have invested strongly in gravitational wave astronomy over the last few years, leading up to the first detection announced last year, and the telescope project represents a fundamentally new observational opportunity,” Dr. Duncan Galloway said, as Deccan Chronicle reported. “It is really satisfying seeing a research collaboration that we have built over many years coming to fruition in such an exciting way."