Gravitational waves: astrophysics and source modeling, data analysis, construction of the Virgo detector

GW190521 unveils new and unexpected black hole populations

Virgo and LIGO have announced the detection of an extraordinarily massive merging binary system: two black holes of 66 and 85 solar masses, which generated a final black hole of 142 solar masses. The remnant lies in a range of mass that has never before been observed, either via gravitational waves or with electromagnetic observations.

The final black hole is the most massive ever detected with gravitational waves.

The breaking of the mass record of the Virgo and LIGO observational runs is just one of the many special features that make the detection of this exceptional merger an unprecedented discovery. A crucial aspect, which particularly drew the attention of astrophysicists, is that the remnant belongs to the class of the so-called intermediate-mass black holes (from a hundred up to a hundred thousand times the mass of the Sun). Read more on the Virgo site

In addition to Polish Virgo-Polgraw researchers, Polish scientists working abroad played an important role: Marek Szczepańczyk (LIGO, University of Florida) and Mateusz Bawaj (Virgo, University of Perugia).


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Virgo-Polgraw is a Polish team of researchers analyzing the data collected by the LIGO and Virgo detectors in search for gravitational waves predicted by the general theory of relativity by Albert Einstein.

Gravitational waves astrophysics is a new and promising field of research of the Universe. In contrast to the observations of the electromagnetic waves (radio waves, visible light, X-rays and gamma), which are the main source of our current knowledge, we ''listen'' to the Universe by registering minor disturbances of the space-time curvature using the LIGO and Virgo laser interferometric detectors. Gravitational waves are emitted during the largest cosmic cataclysms: mergers of binary systems of neutron stars or black holes, explosions of supernovae, and by other sources, eg. unstable or deformed rotating neutron stars. The direct detection of gravitational waves allows the study of objects that are dark (do not shine in electromagnetic waves), testing the theory of gravity in the dynamic regime of strong gravitational field, and the direct study of the interior of neutron stars which contain the densest and most extreme matter existing currently in the Universe. These informations cannot be currently obtained using other methods.

In addition to the data analysis and the development of the statistical signal detection theory, we are modeling astrophysical sources of gravitational waves, make predictions about the population of these sources, search for the electromagnetic waves emission accompanying the gravitational waves and contribute to the construction and running of the Virgo interferometer.

The leader of the Virgo-Polgraw group is prof. Andrzej Królak from the Mathematical Institute PAS. The project is currently financed by an NCN Harmonia grant ''Gravitational-wave astronomy: participation of the Polgraw group in Advanced Virgo and Advanced LIGO projects'' no. 2017/26/M/ST9/00978; previous grant was titled ''Participation of Poland in the Advanced Virgo project'' no. UMO-2014/14/M/ST9/00707). Polish participation in the Virgo project is on the Polish Roadmap for Research Infrastructure. The group consists of

Logos of institutions participating in the Polish Virgo-POLGRAW group.

  1. Institute of Mathematics, PAS
  2. Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center, PAS
  3. Warsaw University Astronomical Observatory
    • Tomasz Bulik (
    • Malgorzata Curyło
    • Przemysław Figura
    • Bartosz Idźkowski
    • Dorota Rosińska
    • Magdalena Sieniawska
    • Neha Singh
    • Paweł Szewczyk
    • Maria Tringali
  4. Institute of Astronomy, University of Zielona Góra
  5. Department of Physics, University of Bialystok
  6. National Centre for Nuclear Research
  7. Centre for Astronomy, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń
  8. Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Wrocław
    • Arkadiusz Błaut
  9. Astronomical Observatory of the Jagiellonian University
    • Jerzy Kubisz
    • Michał Ostrowski
  10. AGH University of Science and Technology
    • Andrzej Kułak
    • Janusz Mlynarczyk
  11. ACK Cyfronet AGH
    • Patryk Lasoń
    • Mariusz Sterzel
  12. Center for Theoretical Physics, PAS

Logos of institutions sponsoring the Virgo-POLGRAW group.

Financing sponsors and sources of computing grants.

Group photo of Polgraw-VIRGO members

Member of the Virgo-Polgraw group: Paweł Ciecieląg, Magdalena Sieniawska, Orest Dorosh, Izabela Kowalska-Leszczyńska, Dorota Rosińska, Adam Zadrożny, Michał Bejger, Andrzej Królak, Piotr Jaranowski, Tomasz Bulik (photo: Marek Cieślar).

A map with locations of all countries and institutions participating in the Advanced Virgo project.

Countries and institutions participating in the Advanced Virgo project (Nicolas Arnaud/Virgo Outreach team)

Group photo of participants of LIGO-Virgo collabotation meeting in Kraków, 2010.

Members of the LIGO-Virgo Collaboration Meeting, organized in Kraków, September 2010.