New Mission May Discover Hundreds of Black Holes Throughout the Universe
A new mission may just discover hundreds of new black holes throughout the universe. Scientists have revamped two detectors that are scheduled to switch on in the U.S. next year that could help scientists pick up the faint ripples of black hole collisions millions of years ago, known as gravitational waves.
Black holes can't be seen, but the new detectors should be able to act like giant microphones and pick up the remnants of black hole collisions.
"The rapid spinning of black holes will cause the orbits to wobble, just like the last wobbles of a spinning top before it falls over," said Mark Hannam, one of the researchers, in a news release. "These wobbles can make the black holes trace out wild paths around each other, leading to extremely complicated gravitational-wave signals. Our model aims to predict this behavior and help scientists find the signals in the detector data."
The researchers created a theoretical model which aims to predict all potential gravitational-wave signals that might be found by detectors. In theory, this should help scientists by acting as a "spotter's guide" and allow them to recognize the right waveforms.
"Sometimes the orbits of these spinning black holes look completely tangled up, like a ball of string," said Hannam. "But if you imagine whirling around with the black holes, then it all looks much clearer, and we can write down equations to describe what is happening. It's like watching a kid on a high-speed spinning amusement park ride, apparently waving their hands around. From the side lines, it's impossible to tell what they're doing. But if you site next to them, they might be sitting perfectly still, just giving you the thumbs up."
The new model should help search for black hole mergers once the detectors switch on. That said, more work still needs to be done. The scientists hope to create enough simulations to capture enough combinations of black-hole masses and spin directions to understand the overall behavior of these complicated systems.
The findings are published in the journal Physical Review Letters.