An artist’s illustration of two colliding neutron stars. Collisions of massive objects in space like neutron stars and black holes ruffle the fabric of spacetime. These tiny distortions of space are detected on Earth with the super-sensitive LIGO and Virgo instruments. NASA/Swift/Dana Berry
When extremely massive objects collide, they produce waves of energy that ripple the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves. Think of them as widening ripples on a pond in the wake of a tossed stone. They’re a form of energy like light and like light, they undulate across space at the speed of light.
Animation showing gravitational waves rippling through spacetime as two massive stars revolve about one another. LIGO
On April 25, the National Science Foundation’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the European-based Virgo detector registered gravitational waves from what appears likely to be a crash between two neutron stars — city-sized, super-dense remnants that remain after a stars explode as supernovae. If you could scrape together a teaspoon of neutron star matter it would weigh a billion tons.
An aerial view of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detector in Livingston, Louisiana. LIGO has two detectors: one in Livingston and the other in ...