Fourth gravitational wave found

09.27.17 -

When the discovery of the first gravitational wave was announced a mere 18 months ago, scientists predicted observing the waves would become commonplace. That day may be arriving sooner than thought, with the announcement today of the observation of a fourth gravitational wave signal from a binary black hole collision. This new observation uses data from three detectors in the USA and Italy, combining the forces of the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (aLIGO) and Advanced Virgo (aVirgo) instruments to provide improved information on the location of the black holes in the sky.

"The modeling and detection of gravitational waves is a computational grand challenge. Historically, high performance computing has been the arena to numerically model gravitational wave sources, whereas high throughput computing has been used for large-scale gravitational wave data analysis. Our team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has enabled, for the first time, the use of Blue Waters to carry out end-to-end gravitational wave studies: we use Blue Waters to numerically model gravitational wave sources with the Einstein Toolkit, and then use numerical relativity waveforms to search for gravitational wave transients in LIGO data using Blue Waters. The use of advanced cyberinfrastructure facilities will continue to be a common theme in the development of gravitational wave astrophysics. We will continue to work with LIGO to bring in new developments in high performance computing to accelerate and facilitate discovery," says Gabrielle Allen, astronomy professor and associate dean of the University of Illinois College of Education.

As was the case in the previous three significant detections, the binary components are consistent with astrophysical properties of black holes, as predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity. This fourth significant detection, called GW170814, is described in a new paper accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters.

"A global network of gravitational wave detectors is key to realizing the vision of multi-messenger astrophysics—observing the universe with photons, gravitational waves and neutrinos that each carry very different messages of information. This detection shows how an international network of detectors will enable the localization of gravitational wave events on the sky with sufficient precision to facilitate follow-up searches of their electromagnetic and astro-particle counterparts. As we move forward to a new era of discovery, international collaboration at the highest level is bringing together different scientific communities. This very exciting result provides a strong foundation for a new revolution in physics to come!" says Ed Seidel, Founder Professor of Physics and Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation for the University of Illinois System.

NCSA's Director and Chief Scientist, Bill Gropp, notes that "just a few months ago we celebrated the discovery of a third, significant gravitational wave transient. This new detection indicates that gravitational wave astrophysics is strongly posed to deliver groundbreaking discoveries for years to come. As we continue to support the LIGO mission on a variety of fronts, including identity management, cybersecurity, and network engineering, we are also happy to announce that Blue Waters has now joined the LIGO Data Grid, and participated in large scale, gravitational wave searches during the last several weeks of the second Advanced Detector Observation Run. NCSA will continue to support the LIGO mission through our Gravity Group, and will support ongoing activities in connection to the exploitation of high performance facilities to accelerate discovery in gravitational wave astrophysics."

"The detection of GW170814 signals a new era for gravitational wave astrophysics. A worldwide, three-detector network has been instrumental to improve the sky localization of this gravitational wave transient by nearly a factor of twenty. This second discovery campaign is particularly special for NCSA. The Gravity Group and the Science and Engineering Applications Support (SEAS) team at NCSA worked shoulder to shoulder with colleagues at LIGO Lab and the San Diego Supercomputer Center to connect Blue Waters, the NSF-supported, leadership-class supercomputer operated by NCSA, to the LIGO Data Grid. We will continue supporting gravitational wave data analysis in months to come, and to expand this work to other computationally intensive analyses, such as parameter estimation studies. Promoting Blue Waters as a vital resource not only to numerically model the mergers of ultra compact objects, but also to assist LIGO in large scale gravitational wave searches, indicates the flexibility and versatility of high performance computing to address computational challenges across science domains," mentioned Eliu Huerta, Gravity Group lead at NCSA.

Read more about the science behind this amazing discovery.

About LIGO

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) is funded by the NSF, and operated by Caltech and MIT, which conceived and built the project. Financial support for the Advanced LIGO project was led by NSF with Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council) and Australia (Australian Research Council) making significant commitments and contributions to the project. More than 1,200 scientists from around the world participate in the effort through the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which includes the GEO Collaboration. Additional partners are listed at http://ligo.org/partners.php. The Virgo Collaboration consists of more than 280 physicists and engineers belonging to 20 different European research groups: six from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France; eight from the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) in Italy; two in The Netherlands with Nikhef; the MTA Wigner RCP in Hungary; the POLGRAW group in Poland; Spain with the University of Valencia; and EGO, the laboratory hosting the Virgo detector near Pisa in Italy.

About NCSA

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides supercomputing and advanced digital resources for the nation's science enterprise. At NCSA, University of Illinois faculty, staff, students, and collaborators from around the globe use advanced digital resources to address research grand challenges for the benefit of science and society. NCSA has been advancing one third of the Fortune 50 for more than 30 years by bringing industry, researchers, and students together to solve grand challenges at rapid speed and scale.

Media contact

Kristin Williamson
Senior Assistant Director, NCSA
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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National Science Foundation

Blue Waters is supported by the National Science Foundation through awards ACI-0725070 and ACI-1238993.