A mysterious cosmic event might have ever-so-slightly stretched and squeezed our planet last week.
On January 14, astronomers detected a split-second burst of gravitational waves … but researchers don’t know where this burst came from.
The universe will always surprise us. There could be totally new astronomical events out there that produce gravitational waves that we haven’t really thought about. Indeed, a weird, 14-millisecond burst of gravitational wave hit Earth last week. And astronomers haven’t yet been able to pinpoint the source of this strange signal coming from deep space.
Origin of the mysterious burst of gravitational waves
Gravitational waves can be caused by the collision of massive objects, such as two black holes or two neutron stars as shown in a new scientific publication.
However, these impact-generated bursts are typically longer and occur as a series of waves that change in frequency over time.
In contrast, the new signal is a burst and not a series of waves.
Was the signal released by a catastrophic supernova explosion?
Did Betelgeuse star undergo supernova explosion? Nope, it is still there, just dimming. And it’s rather not another supernova because they happen in our galaxy only about once every 100 years.
According to latest calculations, the signal seems too short for what we expect from the collapse of a massive star, although we’ve never seen a star blowing up in gravitational waves before.
Finally, astronomers didn’t detect any neutrinos, which supernovas are known to release.
Was the burst from the merging two black holes?
We know that the merging of neutron stars produce waves that last much longer – around 30 seconds.
In contrast, merging black holes resemble bursts that last a couple of seconds.
But again, black hole mergers release a series of waves that change in frequency.
Was the mysterious signal noise in the data?
It’s also possible that this signal was just noise in the data from the detector.
However, this burst of gravitational waves was found by all three LIGO detectors: one in Washington state, one in Louisiana and one in Italy. So it’s a genuine signal.
Astronomers are now pointing their telescopes to that region in space to try to pinpoint the source of the mysterious burst of gravitational waves. Similar mysterious space news can be found on Strange Sounds and Steve Quayle. [LIGO]