Visible light search for gravitational waves black hole merger comes up empty
Last week aninternational team of scientists announced that they had made historyby directly detecting gravitational waves. In light of thosefindings, a second team has attempted to detect the burst of visiblelight given off by the source of the waves – two merging blackholes. The results were disappointing, but could help future attemptsat imaging the source of gravitational waves.
Gravitational waveswere first theorized as a part of Einstein's theory of generalrelativity in 1916, and astronomers had been searching forthem ever since. On Sept. 14, 2015, twin state of the artinterferometry observatories known as LIGO finally detectedthe phenomena.
Encoded in the wavesare the vital characteristics of the source of the gravitationalevent, including its mass, size, and the general direction from whichthey emanated. Therefore by analyzing the wave picked up by theobservatories, astronomers could narrow down their search area in thehunt for the visible light component of the chaotic event.
Over the course of athree-week period, the astronomers made use of the 3 square-degreeDark Energy Camera mounted on the 4-m (13-ft) Blanco telescopelocated at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, tosurvey an impressive 700 square degrees of sky – the equivalent of 2,800 full Moons.
Unfortunately, the teamwas unable to locate the burst of light emitted by the merging blackholes. Whilst the search was ultimately a failure, it will have theeffect of aiding future efforts to achieve a dual observationof a gravity wave and the visible light burst by serving as a modelto be improved upon.