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Listen to a variety of sounds that scientists hope to hear with Gravitational Waves (Thanks to Teviet Creighton for these sounds).
Pulsars re rapidly-spinning stars. As they spin, any bumps on (or in) the stars will give off gravitational waves. Because these stars are so amazingly dense, and spin so amazingly quickly, the gravitational waves may be strong enough to detect on Earth. The sound produced will be a single, simple tone.
The steady tone of a pulsar, spinning almost endlessly in space
According to General Relativity theory — as it is currently understood — a black hole must be a very simple object. It cannot have any bumps or ripples on its surface for very long. Of course, as something falls into the black hole, the hole must ripple. As the hole settles back down to its quiet, simple state, it will shake off gravitational waves.
The gently fading ringing of a black hole ten times more massive than our own Sun, as it settles down after a tumultuous encounter
A black hole twenty times more massive than our own Sun
A black hole forty times more massive than our own Sun
A quickly-spinning black hole ten times more massive than our own Sun
A quickly-spinning black hole twenty times more massive than our own Sun
A quickly-spinning black hole forty times more massive than our own Sun
A Compact Binary is a pair of compact objects — white dwarfs, neutron stars, or black holes — in orbit around each other. As they orbit, they give off energy in the form of gravitational waves. This lost energy draws them closer, and causes their orbits to speed up, which makes the sound of their gravitational waves increase in pitch, until they finally meet and merge. The merger represents a mysterious part of General Relativity theory. Physicists expect to find some of the most interesting behavior here.
The meeting of two black holes, each ten times as massive as the Sun
An Extreme Mass-Ratio Inspiral is a particular type of Compact Binary. In this pairing, one member is millions of times more massive than the other. This is a particularly "clean" example of an binary, meaning that it is very well understood. The inspiral also takes a very long time. This will allow physicists to make very careful observations of the system.
The progressively closer encounter of two black holes
The knocking inspiral of two black holes, as their orbit draws them closer and closer
The chirping inspiral of two black holes
The violence of a supernova may provide the tremendous warping of spacetime necessary to give off gravitational waves. If so, the sound would be very brief. This type of wave is called a "burst". Because supernovae are so powerful, and happen so quickly, the gravitational waves should also be very powerful.
The brief thud of a supernova's gravitational waves
The "white noise" of our Universe's early life
The cracking whip of a cosmic string
Gravitational Wave Detectors are designed to be extraordinarily sensitive to the tiniest motions of their components. Nothing on Earth can be truly isolated from the rest of the Earth, however, which means that any detector's components will be moving. This will produce a great deal of noise noise in the detector's output. Things like earthquakes, and trucks rumbling along nearby highways will produce deep-pitched noise. Just as importantly, lack of laser power will produce high-pitched noise.
The tremendous racket of the world's most sensitive microphone