A visualization of how the timing of millisecond pulsar flashes is being used in a project aimed at confirming the presence of low-frequency gravity waves by measuring their effects on Earth’s position in space. Image: NANOGrav/T. Klein
Monitoring the timing of millisecond pulsar flashes over the past 13 years, astronomers have detected subtle changes that may indicate Earth is “bobbing in an ocean of low-frequency gravity waves” generated by supermassive black holes, researchers say.
Speaking in a virtual news conference hosted by the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, Joseph Simon of the University of Colorado at Boulder said the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves – NANOGrav – monitored 45 pulsars using the Greenbank Radio Telescope and the now-collapsed Arecibo Observatory.
The result is a pulsar timing array in which “we monitor the signals from a large number of these objects,” Simon said. “We actually create a galaxy-size gravitational wave detector within our own Milky Way.
“Here on the Earth, we’re actually kind of bobbing in an ocean of low frequency gravitational waves. And as these waves pass, the Earth gets kind of pushed around very slightly, very slowly, in slightly different directions.”
By comparing slight changes ...