The detection of gravitational waves in 2015 provided groundbreaking information about the Universe. Building on this discovery, EU-funded scientists have now detected waves at three observatories, a first in astrophysics, making it possible to locate the signals origin and better apply the data they provide.
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Young researchers from the GRAWITON project, funded through the EUs Marie Skłodowska-Curie training programme, have contributed to research that has recorded gravitational waves from a single source at three locations a first in astrophysics.
Gravitational waves come from distant powerful collisions in space. Almost imperceptible by the time they reach Earth, they were first recorded by two observatories in 2015 in work that won the 2017 Nobel Prize for physics. Data from three locations allows scientists to triangulate measurements so that they can more precisely locate the waves source for further observations and better understand the Universe.
A place at the forefront
This opens up a new era in multi-messenger astronomy, says GRAWITON coordinator Michele Punturo of Italys Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) and the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO).
Many astrophysical sources emit both photons measured by telescopes and gravitational waves, he explains: They provide different information about their source. These messengers can also travel differently through the Universe. By combining the information from photons and gravitational waves, we can learn much more about their source and about the structure of the Universe.
The waves were recorded at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors at Louisiana and Washington in the US which detected the first waves in 2015 and the European Virgo detector near Pisa, Italy. Among the 1 250 scientists from 21 countries that worked toward this result are 13 early-stage researchers supported by GRAWITON. The researchers helped develop the equipment and data analysis used to measure gravitational waves.
GRAWITON has a double value, says Punturo. It inserts young researchers into very large collaborations that are at the cutting edge of research and supports collaboration between LIGO and Virgo.
Analysis of other data from the detectors is being finalised and more results will be announced soon, he adds.