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Q& A: Black Holes

Q:
During stellar gravitational collapse, what could be the impact generated by the variation of gravitational forces on the space fabric?

A:
Stellar gravitational collapse could cause the fabric of space-time to oscillate. These oscillations would spread out from the collapsed object as gravitational waves. Gravitational waves are also expected when black holes or neutron stars collide, or when a black hole swallows a large amount of matter. Different events would produce different patterns of gravitational wave, and reveal information about the event that could not be detected any other way. Although the waves are very weak, scientists hope someday to detect these gravitational waves, and open up a new field of observational astronomy.

One gravitational wave detector nearing completion is called LIGO, for Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory. See http://www.ligo.caltech.edu/

Another one that uses a spacecraft is in the planning stage. It is called LISA, for Laser Interferometer Space Antenna. See: http://lisa.nasa.gov

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