(For the Holiday Season, from Christmas through the New Year’s Weekend, we’ll post 2020’s most viewed articles as ranked by Google Analytics.)
“Using the pulsars we observe across the Milky Way galaxy, we are trying to be like a spider sitting in stillness in the middle of her web,” says Vanderbilt’s Stephen Taylor, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and former astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) about the location of absolute stillness in our solar system, the center of gravity with which to measure the gravitational waves that signal the existence of the invisible paradoxes we call black holes, which have no memory, and contain the earliest memories of the universe.
“How well we understand the solar system’s center of gravity, its barycenter –the location where the masses of all planets, moons, and asteroids balance out– is critical as we attempt to sense even the smallest tingle to the web,” adds Taylor.
Pinpointing the Barycenter
In the search for previously undetected black holes that are billions of times more massive than the sun, Taylor, together with the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) collaboration has moved the field of research forward by finding the precise location of the barycenter.
Finding the most titanic black holes in the Universe that lurk at the heart of galaxies will help us understand how such galaxies (including our own) have grown and evolved over the billions of years since their formation. These black holes are also unrivaled laboratories for testing fundamental assumptions about physics.
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