“Presently thought to be the most powerful explosions in nature… their sources have only recently been localized by observations of associated afterglows in X-rays, visible light, and radio waves, delayed in that order.” -Richard Matzner, on the dictionary entry for Gamma Ray Burst
It seems like an eternity ago, but it’s been under two years since LIGO first began the science run that would first detect merging black holes. Their latest scientific data run is scheduled to end in just two days, and thus far, they’ve announced a total of three black hole-black hole merger discoveries, along with a fourth probable candidate. Yet thanks to the Twitter account of renowned astrophysicist J. Craig Wheeler, a bit of information has leaked: LIGO may have discovered merging neutron stars for the first time.
When two neutron stars merge, as simulated here, they should create gamma-ray burst jets, as well as other electromagnetic phenomena that, if close enough to Earth, might be visible with some of our greatest observatories. Image credit: NASA / Albert Einstein Institute / Zuse Institute Berlin / M. Koppitz and L. Rezzolla.
They’d be approximately ten times lighter than the black holes we’ve witnessed merging, which means the signals ...