Ripples or disturbances in space-time called gravitational waves have been theorized by Albert Einstein in his theory of general relativity but they have only been recently detected, confirming their existence. The first instance was in August 2016 which was recorded by astronomers with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). This was followed up by its detection of a neutron star merger in 2017.
The second such case of gravitational wave detection was believed to have occurred last Thursday. Astronomers say that the gravitational waves might have been caused by a neutron star merger, also the second time that such merger was picked up.
LIGO’s first detection of a neutron star merger came in August 2017, when scientists detected gravitational ripples from a collision that occurred about 130 million light-years away. Astronomers around the world immediately turned their telescopes to the collision’s location in the sky, allowing them to gather a range of observations across the electromagnetic spectrum.
The 2017 detection was the first time an astronomical event had been observed with both light and gravitational waves, ushering in a new era of “multi-messenger astronomy.” The resulting information gave scientists invaluable data on how heavy elements are created, a direct measurement of the expansion of the universe and evidence that gravitational waves travel at the speed of light, among other things.
This second observation appears to have been slightly too far away for astronomers to get some of of the data they had hoped for, such as how nuclear matter behaves during the intense explosions.
(Image credit: Dana Berry/NASA/Swift)