An artist’s impression of two compact-but-massive neutron stars colliding, converting some of their mass into gravitational waves that ripple through the fabric of space. Image: NSF/LIGO/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet
After major upgrades, the LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave detectors have five possible events in just one month of observation: three black hole mergers, one smashup between two compact neutron stars and, on 26 April, a possible collision between a neutron star and a black hole. If confirmed, the observation would mark another first in the emerging field of gravitational wave astronomy.
“The universe is keeping us on our toes,” Patrick Brady, chief spokesperson for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, said in a statement. “We’re especially curious about the April 26 candidate. Unfortunately, the signal is rather weak. It’s like listening to somebody whisper a word in a busy café, it can be difficult to make out the word or even to be sure that the person whispered at all. It will take some time to reach a conclusion about this candidate.”
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, is operated by Caltech and MIT. It consists of two observing stations, one in the state of Washington and the other in Louisiana, ...