The basic physics of the binary black hole merger GW150914

LIGO Scientific and VIRGO Collaborations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


The first direct gravitational-wave detection was made by the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory on September 14, 2015. The GW150914 signal was strong enough to be apparent, without using any waveform model, in the filtered detector strain data. Here, features of the signal visible in the data are analyzed using concepts from Newtonian physics and general relativity, accessible to anyone with a general physics background. The simple analysis presented here is consistent with the fully general-relativistic analyses published elsewhere, in showing that the signal was produced by the inspiral and subsequent merger of two black holes. The black holes were each of approximately 35 Mʘ, still orbited each other as close as ∼350 km apart and subsequently merged to form a single black hole. Similar reasoning, directly from the data, is used to roughly estimate how far these black holes were from the Earth, and the energy that they radiated in gravitational waves.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1600209
JournalAnnalen der Physik
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • GW150914
  • black holes
  • gravitational waves


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