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Pioneering probe for gravitational wave observatory ends mission

19 July 2017 Stephen Clark

The European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, now sailing around the sun on a trajectory away from Earth, was deactivated Tuesday after a nearly 18-month mission testing previously-untried lasers, vacuum enclosures, exotic gold-platinum cubes and micro-thrusters needed for a trio of gravitational wave observatories set for launch in the 2030s.

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Black holes crash together and make waves

3 June 2017 William Harwood

Three billion years ago, in a third of a second, two black holes crashed into each other and merged into a single entity, converting two solar masses into energy that shook the fabric of spacetime, sending gravitational ripples across the universe that were detected on Earth last January, researchers announced Thursday.

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Gravitational wave testbed repurposed as comet dust detector

26 April 2017 Stephen Clark

In the final months of Europe’s LISA Pathfinder mission, scientists have found an unexpected use for the trailblazing testbed for a future gravitational wave observatory by tracking the tiny dings made by microscopic particles that strike the spacecraft in deep space, exploiting the impacts to learn about the population of dust grains cast off by comets and asteroids across the solar system.

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LIGO resumes search for gravitational waves

1 December 2016 Astronomy Now

After a series of upgrades, the twin detectors of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, have turned back on and resumed their search for ripples in the fabric of space and time known as gravitational waves. Now boasting a 25 percent improvement in sensitivity, LIGO recommenced science observations at 4pm GMT on 30 November.

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Detonating white dwarfs as supernovae

5 October 2016 Astronomy Now

A new mathematical model created by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History details a way that dead stars called white dwarfs could detonate, producing a type of explosion that is instrumental to measuring the extreme distances in our universe. The mechanism could improve our understanding of how Type Ia supernovae form.

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Chandra X-ray Observatory finds evidence for violent stellar merger

16 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Gamma-ray bursts, or GRBs, are some of the most violent and energetic events in the universe. Although these events are the most luminous explosions astronomers can observe, a new study using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA’s Swift satellite and other Earth-based telescopes suggests that scientists may be missing a majority of these powerful cosmic detonations.

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Using gravitational waves to catch runaway intergalactic black holes

4 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a new method for detecting and measuring one of the most powerful, and most mysterious, events in the universe — a black hole being kicked out of its host galaxy and into intergalactic space at speeds as high as 5,000 kilometres per second (11 million miles per hour).

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Seeds of supermassive black holes could be revealed by gravitational waves

27 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Gravitational waves captured by space-based detectors could help identify the origins of supermassive black holes, according to new computer simulations. Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology ran the huge cosmological simulations that can be used to predict the rate at which gravitational waves caused by collisions between the monster black holes might be detected.