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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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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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Did gravitational wave detector find dark matter?

16 June 2016 Astronomy Now

A matter of scientific speculation since the 1930s, dark matter itself cannot yet be detected, but its gravitational effects can be. Now, eight scientists from Johns Hopkins University consider the possibility that the first black hole binary detected by LIGO could be part of this mysterious substance known to make up about 85 percent of the mass of the universe.

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Gravitational waves detected from second pair of coalescing black holes

15 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Three months after announcing the first detection of gravitational waves, scientists report a second observation of the merger of two black holes made on 26 December 2015. The scientists were able to infer that the mass of the black holes was between 8 and 14 solar masses and the event took place at a distance of about 1.4 billion light-years from Earth.

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LISA Pathfinder success paves way for space-based gravitational wave detection

9 June 2016 Astronomy Now

LISA Pathfinder, a mission led by the European Space Agency with contributions from NASA, has successfully tested key technology needed to build a space-based observatory for detecting gravitational waves. These tiny ripples in the fabric of space, predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago, were first seen last year by the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

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Possible link between primordial black holes and dark matter

24 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Dark matter is a mysterious substance composing most of the material universe, now widely thought to be some form of massive exotic particle. An intriguing alternative view is that dark matter is made of black holes formed during the first second of our universe’s existence, known as primordial black holes.

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Gamma-ray space telescope poised to pin down gravitational wave sources

19 April 2016 Astronomy Now

On 14 September 2015, gravitational waves produced by a pair of merging black holes gently rattled space-time in the vicinity of Earth. Less than half a second later, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope picked up a brief, weak burst of high-energy light consistent with the same part of the sky. Analysis of this burst suggests that the events are connected.

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Gravitational wave search provides insights into galaxy mergers

6 April 2016 Astronomy Now

New results from NANOGrav — the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves — establish astrophysically significant limits in the search for low-frequency gravitational waves. This result provides insight into how often galaxies merge and how those merging galaxies evolve over time.

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LIGO’s twin black holes might have been born inside a single star

24 February 2016 Astronomy Now

On 14 September 2015, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes 29 and 36 times the mass of the Sun. New research suggests that the two black holes might have resided inside a single, massive star whose death generated a gamma-ray burst detected by the Fermi Space Telescope.