Gravitational waves detected in space could soon be used to discover when and how some of the universe’s largest black holes were born.
A recent research ran the huge cosmological simulations which can be used to predict the rate at which gravitational waves caused by collisions between the monster black holes might be detected.
The amplitude and frequency of these waves could reveal the initial mass of the seeds from which the first black holes grew, since they were formed 13 billion years ago, and provide further clues about what caused them and where they formed, the researchers of Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology said.
The study combined simulations from the EAGLE project, which aims to create a realistic simulation of the known Universe inside a computer, with a model to calculate gravitational wave signals.
Two detections of gravitational waves caused by collisions between super-massive black holes should be possible each year using space-based instruments such as the Evolved Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (eLISA) detector that is due to launch in 2034, the researchers said.
In February the international LIGO and Virgo collaborations announced that they had detected gravitational waves for the first time using ground-based instruments and in June reported a second detection.
Current theories suggest that the seeds of these black holes were the result of either the growth and collapse of the first generation of stars in the Universe; collisions between stars in dense stellar clusters; or the direct collapse of extremely massive stars in the early Universe.
As each of these theories predicts different initial masses for the seeds of supermassive black hole seeds, the collisions would produce different gravitational wave signals.
This means that the potential detections by eLISA could help pinpoint the mechanism that helped create supermassive black holes and when in the history of the Universe they formed.
The paper was presented at Royal Astronomical Society National Astronomy Meeting 2016.