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article imageGravitational waves part 2: Project launches to find space waves

By Tim Sandle     Jun 10, 2017 in Science
The big news in astrophysics this year was the detection of ripples in the fabric of spacetime, known as gravitational waves. Scientists want to enlist the help of citizen scientists in helping to spot more occurrences.
Gravitational waves are ripples in the curvature of spacetime which propagate as waves at the speed of light. The waves are produced by gravitational interactions that propagate outward from a source. The presence of the waves was predicted by Albert Einstein as part of his theory of general relativity. This is part 2 of our articles on gravitational waves, you can find part 1 here.
Gravitational waves transport energy as gravitational radiation. This is a type of radiant energy like electromagnetic radiation. Studying waves is important, since they derive from such as binary star systems composed of white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. They also offer clues about the formation of the early universe shortly after the Big Bang. The first directly observed the first gravitational waves was in September 2015, detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory.
The initiative of enlisting citizen scientists is being led by Northwestern University astrophysicists and computer scientists, with aim of propelling this new area of astronomy forwards. Gravitational-wave astronomy is now accepted as an emerging branch of observational astronomy.
READ MORE: Gravitational waves detected for the third time
With the initiative the general public now has the opportunity to help scientists to catch more gravitational waves. This takes the form of a crowdsourcing project termed Gravity Spy. The idea is to help scientists to to sift through the large amounts of data produced by the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).
As a result of high sensitivity, the LIGO data has several “glitches”, which are the result of transient noise from instrumental and environmental sources. What Gravity Spy aims to do is allow citizen scientists to help classify these glitches. By doing so this increases the chances of finding more gravitational-waves. Gravity Spy operates on the online crowdsourcing platform Zooniverse.
This involves citizen scientists classifying glitches viewed on their computer screens in their own homes. As people gain more experience they can advance onto more challenging levels. The reason for using people is because algorithms and machine learning have yet to advance sufficiently to be better than the human eye. Morphological categories of glitches include blip, koi fish, paired doves, whistle and helix.
In related news, scientists are reporting another burst of gravitational waves. The signals were again detection by the Advanced LIGO facilities in the U.S. and they come from the merger of two huge black holes some three billion light-years from Earth.
More about Gravitational waves, spacetime, Universe, Black hole
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