Neutron stars are an end state of stellar evolution, says astrophysicist Paul Lasky, at Australia’s Monash University and OzGrav. “They consist of the densest observable matter in the universe, under conditions that are impossible to produce in the laboratory, and theoretical modeling of the matter requires extrapolation by many orders of magnitude beyond the point where nuclear physics is well understood.”
“Gravitational-wave astronomy is reshaping our understanding of the universe,” said Lasky, about a new study co-authored by the ARC Center of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) that makes a compelling case for the development of “NEMO”—a new observatory in Australia that could deliver on some of the most exciting gravitational-wave science next-generation detectors have to offer, but at a fraction of the cost.
The study today presents the design concept and science case for a Neutron Star Extreme Matter Observatory (NEMO): a gravitational-wave interferometer optimized to study nuclear physics with merging neutron stars, using high circulating laser power, quantum squeezing and a detector topology specially designed to achieve the high frequency sensitivity necessary to probe nuclear matter using gravitational waves.
Tip of the Iceberg
According to Monash Ph.D. candidate Francisco Hernandez Vivanco, who also worked on the study, the recent transformational discoveries were only the tip of the iceberg of what the new field of gravitational-wave astronomy could potentially achieve. “To reach its full potential, new detectors with greater sensitivity are required,” Francisco said. “The global community of gravitational-wave scientists is currently designing the so called ‘third-generation gravitational-wave detectors (we are currently in the second generation of detectors; the first generation were the prototypes that got us where we are today).”
Detecting Every Black Hole Merger in the Universe
Third-generation detectors will increase the sensitivity achieved by a factor of 10, detecting every black hole merger throughout the universe, and most of the neutron star collisions.
The paper concludes that further design studies are required detailing specifics of the instrument, as well as a possible scoping study to find an appropriate location for the observatory, a project known as “Finding NEMO.”
Source: Ackley et al., Neutron Star Extreme Matter Observatory: A kilohertz-band gravitational-wave detector in the global network. arXiv:2007.03128 [astro-ph.HE]. arxiv.org/abs/2007.03128