Science

LIGO identifies another cosmic ripple from neutron star collision

These detectors have launched a completely new method of astronomy for the observation of gravitational waves, observation means for previously unobservable high-energy phenomena. As these ripples pass over Earth, detectors like LIGO and Virgo can pick them up and pinpoint their point of origin.

The detection of two neutron stars colliding in space about five billion trillion kilometres away has left an global team of scientists scratching their heads. And now, a second event of this lattermost type has been spotted.

The LIGO detector was part of an global collaboration that discovered the first signal from gravitational waves on February 16, 2016 and the first observed neutron star collision in 2017. After tracing them back to their source, other telescopes and observatories around the world were trained on that spot and were treated to a stellar show of electromagnetic signals like light, radio waves, X-rays and gamma rays.

The discovery came just weeks after the restarting of the most sensitive scientific instrument ever built - the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) - which comprises twin detectors in the United States. It was the first time that gravitational waves, heavy metals such as gold, platinum and light were observed in the same event.

The signal was only detected by the Livingston detector because the other LIGO detector in Hanford was temporarily offline.

There's another oddball difference to this 2019 detection, too. The first visualization focuses on the dynamics of the neutron star matter in the strong field central region; the highest mass-density (blue) are above nuclear densities, the white surfaces appearing later approximates the black hole horizon.

The LIGO data reveal that the combined mass of the merged bodies is about 3.4 times that of the mass of our sun.

"From conventional observations with light, we already know of 17 binary neutron star systems in our own galaxy and we have estimated the masses of these stars", says Ben Farr, a LIGO team member based at the University of Oregon.

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"The interesting thing about this binary is that its total mass is significantly higher than any other known binary systems".

"We have detected a second event consistent with a binary neutron star system and this is an important confirmation of the August 2017 event that marked an exciting new beginning for multi-messenger astronomy two years ago", said physicist and Virgo Spokesperson Jo van den Brand of Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

"Unlike the first detection of a binary neutron star, GW170817, no associated light was observed despite extensive follow-up efforts".

Scientists have discovered a unusual set of mysterious gravitational waves that have been sent across space by an unknown object.

What happened this time: These latest gravitational waves were detected past year by the interferometer at LIGO's Livingston Observatory in Louisiana, scientists told the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, Hawaii on January 5. Unlike this latest event, that detection was complimented by a flash of light from the same event.

Neutron stars are the remnants of dying stars that undergo catastrophic explosions as they collapse at the end of their lives. But it would have to have been an exceptionally small black hole, according to scientists.

Neutron star pairs are thought to form in two possible ways. This begs the question of whether this is the tip of the iceberg of a new class of neutron star binary systems, different from those we have known so far.



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