Ripples in space-time could show when time began
(ORDO NEWS) — The propagation of gravitational waves through matter can reveal ripples in space-time generated by the Big Bang.
The two plasma physicists used the propagation of electromagnetic waves through plasma as an analogy to gravitational waves, devising a set of equations describing what to look for when gravitational waves propagate through stars and gas deep in space.
These signs could reveal the elusive gravitational waves that propagate through space beyond our limited ability to detect them – gigantic low-frequency waves generated by the collision of supermassive black holes, a smaller rumble generated by binary white dwarfs orbiting, and the colossal ringing of the expansion of the universe just a fraction of a second after Big bang.
“We can’t see the early universe directly, but perhaps we can see it indirectly if we look at how the gravitational waves of that time affected the matter and radiation that we can observe today,” says physicist Dipen Garg from Prin. Ceton University.
Gravitational waves resulting from the collision of two stellar-mass black holes were first detected by humans in 2015 at a distance of 1.4 billion light-years.
First predicted by Einstein, gravitational waves are like ripples in a pond: spacetime itself is stretched and compressed due to gravitational disruption caused by a massive event.
Therefore, the instrument that detected these waves is not a telescope, but a precision system of lasers and mirrors that reacts to the curvature of space-time and creates a pattern that scientists can decipher to determine the characteristics of the source of gravitational waves.
But the technology is limited: at present, we can only detect gravitational waves in the mode of collision of a stellar mass with a black hole and a neutron star.
Other sources of gravitational waves are numerous, but currently – and perhaps just simply – out of reach.
But Garg and his colleague, physicist Ilya Dodin of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, realized through their research on plasma fusion that there might be another way to see these currently hidden waves.
Plasma fusion will someday be able to do it. be an alternative and clean source of energy to power the world, but there is still a long way to go.
One thing scientists need is a detailed model that describes how electromagnetic waves propagate through plasma. And it turns out that this should be very similar to how gravitational waves move in matter.
“We actually used the plasma wave technique to work on the problem of gravitational waves,” explains Garg.
According to the pair’s work, the propagation of gravitational waves through matter should produce a discernible signal – for example, changes in the light emitted by stars, or huge clouds of gas in the space between stars.
This could not only reveal gravitational waves that are currently beyond our detection capabilities , but also give scientists a new tool to study the stars.
For example, the characteristics of the light signal generated by gravitational waves in stars can change depending on the internal structure and density of the star.
Since the inner machinations of stars are quite difficult to see, gravitational waves could be a powerful new tool in this area of astronomy.
The team’s work could also prove useful in gravitational wave events that we can detect: mergers between stellar-mass black holes and neutron stars.
In other words, the couple seem to have identified what could prove to be a feature rich and indispensable new way to understand the cosmos. The next step, they say, will be to use it to analyze some evidence.
“I thought it would be a small six-month graduate student project that would involve solving something simple,” says Dodin.
“But once we started to delve into the topic, we realized that we understood very little about the problem, and we could do some very basic theoretical work here.”
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