Science & Technology

Gravitational wave hubbub hints at LIGO’s first sighting of a neutron star smash-up

One other large announcement about gravitational waves is arising, and this time the hints level to  observations in electromagnetic wavelengths as effectively — emissions of mild which will have come from a collision of neutron stars, or a supernova.

That might be a biggie for astronomers: To date, the scientists behind the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, have detected three confirmed collisions of black holes, however no neutron star smash-ups or stellar explosions.

All might be revealed at 7 a.m. PT on Monday, when representatives from LIGO, Europe’s Virgo gravitational-wave observatory, and a sampling of researchers from 70 different observatories are to share new findings throughout a briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

That was the place the place the LIGO workforce reported its first-ever detection of gravitational waves final 12 months.

The European Southern Observatory is planning a news conference at the same time at its headquarters in Germany.

The truth that so many observatories all over the world are in on a number of briefings is a signal that a gravitational-wave detection has matched up with emissions within the electromagnetic spectrum — one thing that hasn’t been reported beforehand.

Might this be neutron stars? Advance hypothesis favors that state of affairs, as a result of it’s thought that the conflict of black holes doesn’t produce mild. Final month, scientists stated they weren’t capable of match up the most recently reported LIGO detection of a black hole merger with any electromagnetic observations.

Not like telescopes that monitor electromagnetic wavelengths — starting from radio and infrared, to seen mild, to X-rays and gamma rays — LIGO and Virgo search for ripples within the cloth of spacetime. Solely essentially the most violent cosmic occasions, corresponding to supernovae and the mergers of black holes and neutron stars, are robust sufficient to set off detectable ripples.

The present hubbub really dates again to August, when the LIGO workforce put out the phrase that astronomers ought to flip their telescopes towards the galaxy NGC 4993 within the constellation Hydra.

Some astronomers, together with the College of Washington’s Peter Yoachim and the College of Texas-Austin’s J. Craig Wheeler, issued tweets hinting at an “optical counterpart” to gravitational-wave observations — and alluding to the chance that it was a neutron star collision.

New LIGO. Supply with optical counterpart. Blow your sox off!

— J Craig Wheeler (@ast309) August 18, 2017

merging neutron-neutron star is the preliminary name.

— peterpeter?spiceeat (@PeterYoachim) August 18, 2017

On the time, the rumors have been picked up by publications together with the journal Nature, Science News and astronomer Ethan Siegel’s “Starts With a Bang” weblog on Forbes.com. Siegel additionally famous that the Hubble House Telescope had noticed a candidate for a binary neutron star merger in NGC 4993 on Aug. 22.

Within the days earlier than September’s LIGO briefing about a black gap detection, some questioned whether or not that announcement was going to deal with the neutron star smash-up. Now there’s a fair greater manufacturing arising, and it’s pure to consider neutron stars as soon as once more.

Yet one more caveat: An argument might be made that Monday’s announcement will deal with gamma-ray bursts or supernova explosions, relatively than neutron stars per se. Some of the astronomers as a result of communicate at the Nationwide Press Membership concentrate on supernova surveys. Others are specialists on gamma rays.

Whether or not it’s neutron stars, supernovae or one thing fully completely different, the briefings might be effectively price watching.

If the revelations relate to optical observations plus gravitational-wave observations, that might mark a large advance for what scientists name “multi-messenger astronomy” — the flexibility to mix other ways of detecting excessive phenomena to get a extra full image of the workings of the cosmos.

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