For the past 5 centuries, people have been observing the sky with telescopes: tools that collect and organize “electromagnetic” light, which includes the light we can see, radio waves, infrared, ultraviolet, x-rays, and gamma-rays. All that light comes, generally, from movements of electrons and protons in the Universe, and thus directly tracks luminous matter. Until recently, all of what we know about the universe was based on information collected from that kind of cosmic messenger. Recently, humans for the first time have enabled fundamental new ways to probe the universe: the new “messengers” are neutrinos and gravitational waves. Neutrinos specifically track radioactive decay, while the detection of gravitational waves tells us about the movements of matter in the universe. Gravitational wave experiments, in particular, now allow us to directly track dark, accelerating objects like black holes in binary systems. Some of these black holes also have plasma or gas around them that emits electromagnetic light, and potentially neutrino-emittion regions of radioactive decay. At WVU we are studying black holes and other compact objects through “multi-messenger astronomy”, which combines information from all of these these views of the universe to form a complete picture of the objects we’re studying.
Researchers in this area include: