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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Gravitational Waves: Researchers observe two cosmic collisions

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Two spectacular events have been detected by researchers at the observatories Ligo and Virgo: gravitational waves from two cosmic events. One of them has never been seen.

On the morning of April 25, the Livingston Ligo Observatory in the USA and the Virgo Observatory in Italy detected gravitational waves presumably caused by the collision of two neutron stars. The event itself is long gone: the two neutron stars are about 500 million light-years away from Earth.

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The researchers could not pinpoint the origin of the S190425z signal very precisely because only two of the three detectors detected the signal. One of the two Ligo Observatories in Hanford was not in use. Astronomers therefore had to use telescopes to search almost a quarter of the sky for the starting point.

Is S190426c a premiere?

It would be the second time that the detectors detect a neutron star collision. The second event is a first: Virgo and the two Ligo detectors detected signal S190426c in the late afternoon of April 26th. From the unusual shape of the waves, the researchers concluded that they came from a collision of a neutron star with a black hole.

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Such a collision has not yet been observed. Therefore, they are particularly curious, says Patrick Brady, spokesman for the Ligo Scientific Collaboration. “Unfortunately, the signal is very weak, it’s like hearing someone whisper a word in a bus café, it’s difficult to understand the word or to be sure the person whispered at all take a long time to come to a conclusion about this candidate. “

Astronomers are looking for more clues

The source of the signal is located in the northern sky hemisphere and is about 1.2 billion light-years from Earth. Since all three detectors were in use, the researchers were able to locate them quite accurately. This makes it easier to scan the corresponding sky segment with telescopes for further clues to a possible collision.

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Gravitational waves are disturbances of space-time. Albert Einstein had predicted it in his general theory of relativity. It was only in 2016 that they were first experimentally detected by Ligo – an abbreviation for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory . The following year, the three explorers received the Nobel Prize in Physics. Since then, including the two new ones, a total of 16 events have been detected: 13 collisions of black holes, two of neutron stars and the alleged collision of a neutron star with a black hole.

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