From ARC Centres of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery OzGrav (AU) via phys.org : “Testing Einstein’s theory of gravity from the shadows and collisions of black holes”

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From ARC Centres of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery OzGrav (AU)

via

phys.org

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Artist’s impression of binary black holes about to collide. Credit: Mark Myers, OzGrav-Swinburne University of Technology (AU).

General relativity, Einstein’s theory of gravity, is best tested at its most extreme—close to the event horizon of a black hole. This regime is accessible through observations of shadows of supermassive black holes and gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of our Universe from colliding stellar-mass black holes. For the first time, scientists from the ARC Center of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav), the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) and the Caltech MIT Advanced aLIGO(US), have outlined a consistent approach to exploring deviations from Einstein’s general theory of relativity in these two different observations. This research, published in Physical Review D, confirms that Einstein’s theory accurately describes current observations of black holes, from the smallest to the largest.

One of the hallmark predictions from general relativity is the existence of black holes.The theory provides a specific description of a black hole’s effect on the fabric of space-time: a four-dimensional mesh which encodes how objects move through space and time. Known as the Kerr metric, this prediction can be related to the bending of light around a black hole, or the orbital motion of binary black holes. In this study, the deviations from the Kerr metric were linked to features in these black hole observations.

In 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope generated silhouette images of the black hole at the center of the galaxy M87, with a mass several billion times that of our Sun.

The first image of the event horizon of a black hole. This is the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy Messier 87. Image via JPL/ Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration released on 10 April 2019 Messier 87*, via National Science Foundation(US)

The angular size of the shadow is related to the mass of the black hole, its distance from Earth and possible deviations from general relativity’s prediction. These deviations can be calculated from the scientific data, including previous measurements of the black hole’s mass and distance.

Meanwhile, since 2015 the LIGO and Virgo gravitational-wave observatories have been detecting gravitational waves from merging stellar mass black holes. By measuring the gravitational waves from the colliding black holes, scientists can explore the mysterious nature and metrics of the black holes. This study focussed on deviations from general relativity that appear as slight changes to the pitch and intensity of the gravitational waves, before the two black holes collide and merge.

Combining the measurements of the shadow of the supermassive black hole in M87 and gravitational waves from a couple of binary black hole detections, called GW170608 and GW190924, the researchers found no evidence for deviations from general relativity. Co-author of the study and OzGrav research assistant Ethan Payne (Australian National University) explained that the two measurements provided similar, consistent constraints. “Different sizes of black holes may help break the complementary behavior seen here between EHT and LIGO/Virgo observations,” said Payne. “This study lays the groundwork for future measurements of deviations from the Kerr metric.”

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OzGrav (AU)


ARC Centres of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery OzGrav (AU)
A new window of discovery.
A new age of gravitational wave astronomy.
One hundred years ago, Albert Einstein produced one of the greatest intellectual achievements in physics, the theory of general relativity. In general relativity, spacetime is dynamic. It can be warped into a black hole. Accelerating masses create ripples in spacetime known as gravitational waves (GWs) that carry energy away from the source. Recent advances in detector sensitivity led to the first direct detection of gravitational waves in 2015. This was a landmark achievement in human discovery and heralded the birth of the new field of gravitational wave astronomy. This was followed in 2017 by the first observations of the collision of two neutron-stars. The accompanying explosion was subsequently seen in follow-up observations by telescopes across the globe, and ushered in a new era of multi-messenger astronomy.

The mission of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) is to capitalise on the historic first detections of gravitational waves to understand the extreme physics of black holes and warped spacetime, and to inspire the next generation of Australian scientists and engineers through this new window on the Universe.

OzGrav is funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council Centres of Excellence funding scheme, and is a partnership between Swinburne University of Technology (AU) (host of OzGrav headquarters), the Australian National University (AU), Monash University (AU), University of Adelaide (AU), University of Melbourne (AU), and University of Western Australia (AU), along with other collaborating organisations in Australia and overseas.

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The objectives for the ARC Centres of Excellence are to to:

undertake highly innovative and potentially transformational research that aims to achieve international standing in the fields of research envisaged and leads to a significant advancement of capabilities and knowledge

link existing Australian research strengths and build critical mass with new capacity for interdisciplinary, collaborative approaches to address the most challenging and significant research problems

develope relationships and build new networks with major national and international centres and research programs to help strengthen research, achieve global competitiveness and gain recognition for Australian research

build Australia’s human capacity in a range of research areas by attracting and retaining, from within Australia and abroad, researchers of high international standing as well as the most promising research students

provide high-quality postgraduate and postdoctoral training environments for the next generation of researchers

offer Australian researchers opportunities to work on large-scale problems over long periods of time

establish Centres that have an impact on the wider community through interaction with higher education institutes, governments, industry and the private and non-profit sector.