LIGO expected to detect more binary black hole mergers

January 9, 2017 by Tomasz Nowakowski,
LIGO expected to detect more binary black hole mergers

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) broke the news almost one year ago about the first-ever direct observation of gravitational waves. Now, LIGO scientists hope that this year could yield even more breakthrough findings in astronomy.

On November 30, LIGO resumed its search for gravitational waves when it was switched from engineering test runs to science observations following a series of upgrades. One of LIGO's observatories, located in Livingston, Louisiana, now has about a 25 percent greater sensitivity for detecting from than previously, which allows it to spot at greater distances than before.

"We began LIGO's second observing run (called O2) on November 30, 2016. O2 is planned to continue for approximately six months until the late spring or early summer of 2017. After it ends, we will enter another period of detector commissioning where we will work to improve the Hanford and Livingston detectors' sensitivities through the end of 2017. It's also possible that the Virgo interferometer (located near Pisa, Italy) will come online and join LIGO sometime in the next few months, which will bring an added capability to our ability to detect and locate gravitational wave sources," David Reitze of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) told

Reitze is the executive director of the LIGO Laboratory, which operates the LIGO Observatories. Caltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) conceived of, built, and operate the LIGO Observatories, with funding provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

LIGO scientists hope that with more detections of black hole mergers, our understanding of black hole pairs in the universe will significantly improve. This, together with possible new observations of neutron star mergers, could provide important insights on stellar evolution and death.

"It is likely, but not guaranteed, that we will detect more binary black hole mergers during the O2 run. Binary neutron star mergers or a neutron star merging with a black hole would be a new and thus more significant discovery. However, the rates for these events are much less certain, so we can not say with any confidence when we will first see them," Reitze said.

He added that the astronomical community is greatly interested in LIGO events, because a gravitational wave source may also emit electromagnetic radiation—gamma rays, X-rays, optical, infrared, and even radio frequencies. This would be true for binary neutron star collisions, neutron star-black hole mergers, and supernovae.

"Astronomers have already searched for electromagnetic emissions from the first LIGO detections, and will continue in O2. We hope that LIGO will become increasingly important as time goes on and we make more discoveries of electromagnetically bright events," Reitze concluded.

Explore further: LIGO discovery named Science's 2016 Breakthrough of the Year

Related Stories

LIGO discovery named Science's 2016 Breakthrough of the Year

December 23, 2016

The scientific journal, Science, has chosen as its 2016 Breakthrough of the Year the discovery of tiny ripples in spacetime called gravitational waves – a finding that confirmed a century-old prediction by Albert Einstein. ...

LIGO back online, ready for more discoveries

December 1, 2016

Today (November 30), scientists restarted the twin detectors of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, after making several improvements to the system. Over the last year, they have made enhancements ...

Advanced LIGO to begin operations

September 16, 2015

The Advanced LIGO Project, a major upgrade of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, is completing its final preparations before the initiation of scientific observations, scheduled to begin in mid-September. ...

Making waves in spacetime

July 22, 2016

Waves on Earth's oceans move in endless rhythm along sandy beaches. Another kind of wave ripples to our planet from distant black holes in the universe.

Continuing the search for gravitational waves

March 29, 2016

In February, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration announced it had detected gravitational waves for the first time, confirming the last prediction of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. Somewhat overlooked in the excitement ...

Recommended for you

Planetary waves, first found on Earth, are discovered on Sun

March 27, 2017

The same kind of large-scale planetary waves that meander through the atmosphere high above Earth's surface may also exist on the Sun, according to a new study led by a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research ...

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

March 27, 2017

High above Earth, two giant rings of energetic particles trapped by the planet's magnetic field create a dynamic and harsh environment that holds many mysteries—and can affect spacecraft traveling around Earth. NASA's Van ...

Stars born in winds from supermassive black holes

March 27, 2017

Observations using ESO's Very Large Telescope have revealed stars forming within powerful outflows of material blasted out from supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies. These are the first confirmed observations ...

Evidence of giant tsunami on Mars suggests an early ocean

March 27, 2017

(—A team of researchers with members from France, Italy and the U.S. has found what they believe is evidence of a giant tsunami occurring on Mars approximately 3 billion years ago due to an asteroid plunging into ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (2) Jan 10, 2017
From this it is evident that experts from the LIGO group does not know what black holes are and how they arise.
not rated yet Jan 17, 2017
From this it is evident that experts from the LIGO group does not know what black holes are and how they arise.

I would ask how in the world you arrived at this conclusion, but then I came to the realization that firstly, your answer would very likely be nonsense, and secondly, I actually don't care.

Sure. The guys who built one of the most sensitive detectors ever conceived for the purpose of observing gravitational waves from cataclysmic cosmic events don't know what a black hole is or how they come to be. They just produced a detector to pick up the very space-time disturbances that black holes are expected to generate, and detected exactly what they expected, but they don't know anything about them, right? Makes sense.
not rated yet Jan 17, 2017
Astronomers have already searched for electromagnetic emissions from the first LIGO detections

But did they find anything?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.