Astronomers have made a new detection of gravitational waves and for the first time have been able to trace the shape of ripples sent through spacetime when black holes collide.
The latest detection is the first to have also been picked up by the Virgo detector, located near Pisa, Italy, providing a new layer of detail on the three dimensional pattern of warping that occurs during some of the most violent and energetic events in the universe.
The black holes, with masses about 31 and 25 times the mass of the sun, combined to produce a newly spinning black hole with about 53 times the mass of the sun.
Ligo scientists’ historic observation of gravitational waves in September 2015, marked the first experimental proof of Einstein’s prediction a century ago that space itself can be stretched and squeezed.
Virgo’s arms are angled differently than the two Ligo detectors, allowing astronomers to extract new information about the polarisation of gravitational waves – essentially the path traced out by the vibrations.
Virgo has been collecting data since 2007, but the instrument was offline undergoing upgrades when Ligo made its first detections of gravitational waves in 2015.
UK science minister Jo Johnson said: “The latest detection of gravitational waves is an excellent example of international collaboration, which was only made possible due to the breakthrough work undertaken by UK scientists and engineers.”