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Press Statement 17-010

NSF statement on latest LIGO-Virgo detection of binary black hole merger

Jim Ulvestad, NSF acting assistant director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, issues statement on detection of two 'light' black holes merging

Black holes detected

Graphic shows the masses for black holes detected through gravitational-wave observations (blue).

December 6, 2017

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Scientists supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced the detection of the merger of two relatively "light" black holes, 7 and 12 times the mass of the sun, respectively, at a distance of about 1 billion light-years. NSF'sLaser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) made the detection in June. LIGO is funded by NSF and operated by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The black hole merger, GW170608, is the lightest observed thus far by LIGO and the Europe-based Virgo detector. The LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration submitted a paper toThe Astrophysical Journal Letters describing the newly confirmed observation.

Jim Ulvestad, NSF acting assistant director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, issued the following statement on the observation:

Gravitational-wave detection is becoming almost commonplace, and each detection provides new ways to study some of the most powerful events in the universe. This binary black hole merger is the latest confirmation for the value of NSF's investment in Advanced LIGO upgrades that are making such detections possible. LIGO's twin detectors have now provided unprecedented insights into five binary black hole mergers and one binary neutron star merger, the latter event being the first to combine gravitational-wave detection with telescope observations to launch a new era of multi-messenger astrophysics.


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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, its budget is $8.1 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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