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Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Mississippi

UM Gravitational Physics Faculty Model the Ringdown Phase of Black Hole Mergers

Finding a needle in a haystack might prove easier than finding the most accurate measure of gravitational waves, telltale ripples in space-time created when massive black holes crash into each other. Yet a University of Mississippi physicist and his team have made significant advances in that direction.

Leo Chaim Stein, UM assistant professor of physics and astronomy, has been working with Keefe Mitman, a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology, and Macarena Lagos, a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University, to precisely model gravitational waves that result from these cosmic collisions.

Stein, Mitman and Lagos detail their findings in “Nonlinearities in black hole ringdowns,” an article published Feb. 21 in the journal Physical Review Letters. The article was selected as an “Editor’s suggestion,” a designation given to only about 15% of all papers and reserved for those that are “particularly important, interesting and well-written.”

We want to mathematically model how black holes ‘ring down’ like a bell, because we can use the frequencies in the ringdown to test Einstein’s theory of gravity, general relativity,” Stein said.

UM is part of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, Scientific Collaboration. The LIGO collaboration, working with the European-based Virgo interferometer, first detected gravitational waves in 2015 and have continued to study the phenomena.

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