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  • richardmitnick 4:41 pm on May 31, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , GW170817,   

    From NASA Chandra: “Gravitational Wave Event Likely Signaled Creation of a Black Hole” 

    NASA Chandra Banner

    NASA/Chandra Telescope

    From NASA Chandra

    Megan Watzke
    Chandra X-ray Center, Cambridge, Mass.


    The spectacular merger of two neutron stars that generated gravitational waves announced last fall likely did something else: birthed a black hole. This newly spawned black hole would be the lowest mass black hole ever found.

    A new study analyzed data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory taken in the days, weeks, and months after the detection of gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) and gamma rays by NASA’s Fermi mission on August 17, 2017.

    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    Skymap showing how adding Virgo to LIGO helps in reducing the size of the source-likely region in the sky. (Credit: Giuseppe Greco (Virgo Urbino group)

    NASA/Fermi LAT

    NASA/Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope

    While nearly every telescope at professional astronomers’ disposal observed this source, known officially as GW170817, X-rays from Chandra are critical for understanding what happened after the two neutron stars collided.

    From the LIGO data astronomers have a good estimate that the mass of the object resulting from the neutron star merger is about 2.7 times the mass of the Sun. This puts it on a tightrope of identity, implying it is either the most massive neutron star ever found or the lowest mass black hole ever found. The previous record holders for the latter are no less than about four or five times the Sun’s mass.

    “While neutron stars and black holes are mysterious, we have studied many of them throughout the Universe using telescopes like Chandra,” said Dave Pooley of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, who led the study. “That means we have both data and theories on how we expect such objects to behave in X-rays.”

    The Chandra observations are telling, not only for what they revealed, but also for what they did not. If the neutron stars merged and formed a heavier neutron star, then astronomers would expect it to spin rapidly and generate a very strong magnetic field. This, in turn, would have created an expanding bubble of high-energy particles that would result in bright X-ray emission. Instead, the Chandra data show levels of X-rays that are a factor of a few to several hundred times lower than expected for a rapidly spinning, merged neutron star and the associated bubble of high-energy particles, implying a black hole likely formed instead.

    If confirmed, this result shows that a recipe for making a black hole can sometimes be complicated. In the case of GW170817, it would have required two supernova explosions that left behind two neutron stars in a sufficiently tight orbit for gravitational wave radiation to bring the neutron stars together.

    “We may have answered one of the most basic questions about this dazzling event: what did it make?” said co-author Pawan Kumar of the University of Texas at Austin. “Astronomers have long suspected that neutron star mergers would form a black hole and produce bursts of radiation, but we lacked a strong case for it until now.”

    A Chandra observation two to three days after the event failed to detect a source, but subsequent observations 9, 15 and 16 days after the event, resulted in detections. The source went behind the Sun soon after, but further brightening was seen in Chandra observations about 110 days after the event, followed by comparable X-ray intensity after about 160 days.

    By comparing the Chandra observations with those by the NSF’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), Pooley and collaborators explain the observed X-ray emission as being due entirely to the shock wave — akin to a sonic boom from a supersonic plane — from the merger smashing into surrounding gas. There is no sign of X-rays resulting from a neutron star.

    NRAO/Karl V Jansky VLA, on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, NM, USA, at an elevation of 6970 ft (2124 m)

    The claims by Pooley’s team can be tested by future X-ray and radio observations. If the remnant turns out to be a neutron star with a strong magnetic field, then the source should get much brighter at X-ray and radio wavelengths in about a couple of years when the bubble of high energy particles catches up with the decelerating shock wave. If it is indeed a black hole, astronomers expect it to continue to become fainter that has recently been observed as the shock wave weakens.

    “GW170817 is the astronomical event that keeps on giving,” said J. Craig Wheeler, a co-author on the study also from the University of Texas. “We are learning so much about the astrophysics of the densest known objects from this one event.”

    If follow-up observations find that a heavy neutron star has survived, such a discovery would challenge theories for the structure of neutron stars and how massive they can get.

    “At the beginning of my career, astronomers could only observe neutron stars and black holes in our own galaxy, and now we are observing these exotic stars across the cosmos,” said co-author Bruce Grossan of the University of California at Berkeley. “What an exciting time to be alive, to see instruments like LIGO and Chandra showing us so many thrilling things nature has to offer.”

    A paper describing this result appears in the latest issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters and is available online. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.

    Other materials about the findings are available at:

    For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit:

    See the full article here .


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    NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra’s science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

  • richardmitnick 1:51 pm on December 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Binary neutron stars, , , , GW170817,   

    From DES: “What the galaxy that hosted the gravitational wave event GW170817 can teach us about binary neutron stars” 

    Dark Energy Icon

    The Dark Energy Survey

    November 22, 2017 [Just now in social media.]
    Antonella Palmese
    Sunayana Bhargava

    Astronomers know many facts about galaxies. For example, we know that their colours tell us about the stars inside them and how old they are. We also know that their shapes can tell us about how they formed. Past and current large-scale surveys such as the Dark Energy Survey (DES) observe millions of galaxies at different distances, and therefore at different stages of their evolution. These galaxies can be catalogued and characterized in a number of different ways. However, one type of star system we know little about are binary neutron stars (BNS). The handful of confirmed binary neutron stars found have all been within our own galaxy.

    The optical counterpart to GW170817 was observed by the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) and other instruments to have come from a galaxy named NGC 4993, which is 130 million light years away from us. This event was likely produced by a binary neutron star merger. Antonella Palmese, together with other galaxy evolution and gravitational wave experts (Will Hartley, Marcelle Soares-Santos, Jim Annis, Huan Lin, Christopher Conselice, Federica Tarsitano and more) asked the question: what can we learn about the stars in NGC 4993? How did this binary system emerge in the overall history of the galaxy? Although we only have one snapshot of this galaxy, which is precisely 130 million years old, we can make use of other properties to infer how this galaxy evolved over cosmic time.

    At first glance, NGC 4993 looks like a normal, old massive elliptical galaxy (left panel in Figure 1), known by astronomers as an “early type galaxy”. But if we examine it more closely, we see that it contains shell structures: arcs of brighter stellar densities around the center of the galaxy. If we consider the profile of a typical, early type galaxy (see middle panel in Figure 1) and subtract it from the profile of NGC 4993, we notice key differences that help us characterize the kind of environment needed for binary neutron stars to form.

    Figure 1. Left panel: DECam image of NCG 4993. Shell structures indicative of a recent galaxy merger are clearly visible. Middle panel: r-band residuals after subtraction of a Sérsic light profile. Right panel: F606W-band HST ACS image with a 3 component galaxy model subtracted. Dust lanes crossing the centre of the galaxy are evident after this subtraction. The green lines show the position of the transient.

    A number of papers starting from the 1980s have supported, with simulations and observations, the idea that these kind of shell structures are the debris of a recent merger between two galaxies (see a simulation example: http://hubblesite.org/video/558/news/4-galaxies ). During the merger, the stars from the smaller galaxy that passed close to NGC4993 millions of years ago were stripped away. As a result, many stars are concentrated in these arc-like regions. From the innermost shell position and the velocity of stars, we estimate that the shells in this galaxy should be visible for ~200 million years before dispersing. This means, if we still see them, the galaxy merger must have happened up to 200 million years before the BNS coalescence (see Figure 2 for a timeline). Could the dynamics of this galaxy merger be involved in the formation of the GW progenitor?

    Figure 2. Timeline of NGC 4993

    DES only observes in optical photometric bands so we added information from infrared and spectroscopic surveys to study this galaxy in greater detail. We find more evidence for a recent galaxy merger (e.g. dust lanes, right panel of Figure 1, and two different stellar populations). We also find that the age of most of the stars in this galaxy is ~11 billion years old – only a few billion years younger than the Universe! This means that during its ‘recent’ stages, this galaxy has not been forming stars.

    Most of the current models for the formation of BNS suggest that they begin as a binary of two massive stars from a star formation event. During the evolution of the massive star binary, both stars will become supernova. If the gravitational force between the stars is strong enough to keep them bound against the force of the supernovae explosions, they become neutron stars in orbit until they coalesce. Simulations show us that neutron stars usually orbit around each other for ~500 million years before they merge, but it can take up to some billion years. Their lifetime before becoming neutron stars is much shorter than that.

    So if there was no recent star formation in NGC 4993, where did these massive stars, which go on to become neutron stars, come from? If they formed 11 billion years ago with other stars in the galaxy, why did they only merge now? Our work shows that it is unlikely that the BNS was formed ordinarily. We do not expect this BNS to be so old given the current knowledge of their expected lifetime from simulations. We instead suggest that the formation of the BNS was not through traditional channels. Instead, dynamical interactions between stars due to the galaxy merger might have caused the two neutron stars to form a binary or to coalesce. The plan for the future is to discover many more of these BNS systems inside their galactic hosts. With more data, it will be possible to determine how galaxies are able to produce the right conditions for this energetic dance of dense bodies to occur, creating ripples of energy (gravitational waves) that teach us about the Universe.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    DECam, built at FNAL
    DECam, built at FNAL
    CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope
    CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope interior
    CTIO Victor M Blanco Telescope at Cerro Tololo which houses the DECAm

    The Dark Energy Survey (DES) is designed to probe the origin of the accelerating universe and help uncover the nature of dark energy by measuring the 14-billion-year history of cosmic expansion with high precision. More than 120 scientists from 23 institutions in the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Germany are working on the project. This collaboration [has built] an extremely sensitive 570-Megapixel digital camera, DECam, and [has mounted] it on the Blanco 4-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory high in the Chilean Andes. Started in Sept. 2012 and continuing for five years, DES will survey a large swath of the southern sky out to vast distances in order to provide new clues to this most fundamental of questions.

  • richardmitnick 3:40 pm on November 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Black Hole Binaries Detected, , , GW170814, GW170817   

    From LIGO via Manu: “LIGO and Virgo announce the detection of a black hole binary merger from June 8, 2017” 

    Manu Garcia, a friend from IAC.

    The universe around us.
    Astronomy, everything you wanted to know about our local universe and never dared to ask.

    LIGO Scientific Collaboration

    News Release • November 15, 2017

    Black Hole Binaries Detected

    Scientists searching for gravitational waves have confirmed yet another detection from their fruitful observing run earlier this year. Dubbed GW170608, the latest discovery was produced by the merger of two relatively light black holes, 7 and 12 times the mass of the sun, at a distance of about a billion light-years from Earth. The merger left behind a final black hole 18 times the mass of the sun, meaning that energy equivalent to about 1 solar mass was emitted as gravitational waves during the collision.

    This event, detected by the two NSF-supported LIGO detectors at 02:01:16 UTC on June 8, 2017 (or 10:01:16 pm on June 7 in US Eastern Daylight time), was actually the second binary black hole merger observed during LIGO’s second observation run since being upgraded in a program called Advanced LIGO. But its announcement was delayed due to the time required to understand two other discoveries: a LIGO-Virgo three-detector observation of gravitational waves from another binary black hole merger (GW170814) on August 14, and the first-ever detection of a binary neutron star merger (GW170817) in light and gravitational waves on August 17.

    A paper describing the newly confirmed observation, “GW170608: Observation of a 19-solar-mass binary black hole coalescence,” authored by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration has been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Additional information for the scientific and general public can be found at http://www.ligo.org/detections/GW170608.php.

    A fortuitous detection

    The fact that researchers were able to detect GW170608 involved some luck.

    A month before this detection, LIGO paused its second observation run to open the vacuum systems at both sites and perform maintenance. While researchers at LIGO Livingston, in Louisiana, completed their maintenance and were ready to observe again after about two weeks, LIGO Hanford, in Washington, encountered additional problems that delayed its return to observing.

    On the afternoon of June 7 (PDT), LIGO Hanford was finally able to stay online reliably and staff were making final preparations to once again “listen” for incoming gravitational waves. As part of these preparations, the team at Hanford was making routine adjustments to reduce the level of noise in the gravitational-wave data caused by angular motion of the main mirrors. To disentangle how much this angular motion affected the data, scientists shook the mirrors very slightly at specific frequencies. A few minutes into this procedure, GW170608 passed through Hanford’s interferometer, reaching Louisiana about 7 milliseconds later.

    LIGO Livingston quickly reported the possible detection, but since Hanford’s detector was being worked on, its automated detection system was not engaged. While the procedure being performed affected LIGO Hanford’s ability to automatically analyze incoming data, it did not prevent LIGO Hanford from detecting gravitational waves. The procedure only affected a narrow frequency range, so LIGO researchers, having learned of the detection in Louisiana, were still able to look for and find the waves in the data after excluding those frequencies. For this detection, Virgo was still in a commissioning phase; it started taking data on August 1.

    More to learn about black holes

    GW170608 is the lightest black hole binary that LIGO and Virgo have observed – and so is one of the first cases where black holes detected through gravitational waves have masses similar to black holes detected indirectly via electromagnetic radiation, such as X-rays.

    This discovery will enable astronomers to compare the properties of black holes gleaned from gravitational wave observations with those of similar-mass black holes previously only detected with X-ray studies, and fills in a missing link between the two classes of black hole observations.

    Despite their relatively diminutive size, GW170608’s black holes will greatly contribute to the growing field of “multimessenger astronomy,” where gravitational wave astronomers and electromagnetic astronomers work together to learn more about these exotic and mysterious objects.

    What’s next

    The LIGO and Virgo detectors are currently offline for further upgrades to improve sensitivity. Scientists expect to launch a new observing run in fall 2018, though there will be occasional test runs during which detections may occur.

    LIGO and Virgo scientists continue to study data from the completed O2 observing run, searching for other events already “in the can,” and are preparing for the greater sensitivity expected for the fall O3 observing run.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    About the LSC

    The LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) is a group of scientists seeking to make the first direct detection of gravitational waves, use them to explore the fundamental physics of gravity, and develop the emerging field of gravitational wave science as a tool of astronomical discovery. The LSC works toward this goal through research on, and development of techniques for, gravitational wave detection; and the development, commissioning and exploitation of gravitational wave detectors.

    The LSC carries out the science of the LIGO Observatories, located in Hanford, Washington and Livingston, Louisiana as well as that of the GEO600 detector in Hannover, Germany. Our collaboration is organized around three general areas of research: analysis of LIGO and GEO data searching for gravitational waves from astrophysical sources, detector operations and characterization, and development of future large scale gravitational wave detectors.

    Founded in 1997, the LSC is currently made up of more than 1000 scientists from dozens of institutions and 15 countries worldwide. A list of the participating universities.

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy
    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

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