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“We Can Listen to the Universe Now” –LIGO Gravitational Wave Discovery (Today’s ‘Galaxy’ Insight)

2016-02-18

The frequencies of gravitational waves that LIGO is designed to detect are actually in the human audible range. So when we’re working on LIGO, we often take its output and put it on a speaker and just listen to it. For this binary black hole system, it made a distinctive, rising “whoooop!” sound. It’s not that we just look up and see anymore, like we always have—we actually can listen to the universe now. It’s a whole new sense, and humanity did not have this sense until LIGO was built.”

via “We Can Listen to the Universe Now” –LIGO Gravitational Wave Discovery (Today’s ‘Galaxy’ Insight).

This ties in to my post about the discovery of gravitational waves with LIGO a couple of days ago.  The frequency, as shown in a diagram in one of the articles I referred to, goes from roughly 50 to 500 Hz (middle C is 440 Hz.) So the output can indeed be played on a speaker and make an audible “whoop” noise.  The article referenced above also mentions that the colliding black holes are about 1.5 billion light years away from us, an enormous distance; one would not want to be close to this event when it occurred, as it released about three times the mass of the Sun in gravitational wave energy alone in a few tenths of a second.

This web site (The “Daily Galaxy”) has much more about LIGO, the wave discovery, and the recent discovery of a black hole with 21 billion times the mass of the sun.  This newly discovered black hole is in the center of the galaxy NGC 4889, and, unbelievably, is currently quiescent, that is, not “feeding” on its surrounding galaxy.  I highly recommend this web site for astronomy buffs.

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