More gravitational waves have been spotted following another collision of two neutron stars, it has been announced. This is only the second ever observation of signals emanating from this type of event—and we’re still missing some details for this one.
What happened: The gravitational waves were detected last year by the interferometer at LIGO’s Livingston Observatory in Louisiana, scientists told the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, Hawaii on January 5. LIGO’s other interferometer, located at the Hanover Observatory in Washington, was offline at the time. The European Virgo detector in Italy, which works in collaboration with LIGO, also failed to pick up on the same gravitational waves.
The findings have been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters. If accepted, it’s the first time gravitational wave findings will be published based solely on one instrument’s detection.
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The crash: So far, we know that the neutron star merger occurred more than 500 million light-years away. Scientists have constrained the crash to a patch that makes up about 20 percent of the sky.
Until now, the only binary neutron star systems that have been detected have had total masses no bigger than 2.9 times that of our sun. The LIGO data, however, suggests the combined mass of the merger is about 3.4 times the sun’s mass. This raises a slight possibility we’re looking at a neutron star colliding with a black hole, but for this to be the case, the black hole would have to be unusually small, and that doesn’t fit the data profile so far. Instead, it looks like we’re seeing the heaviest neutron star binary to date.
One after another: The first time scientists detected gravitational waves from a neutron star merger was in 2017. Unlike this latest event, that detection was complimented by a flash of light from the same event.
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