Rumours swell over new kind of gravitational-wave sighting
Gossip over potential detection of colliding neutron stars has astronomers in a tizzy
24 August 2017 Updated: 25 August 2017,
Astrophysicists may have detected gravitational waves last week from the collision of two neutron stars in a distant galaxy — and telescopes trained on the same region might also have spotted the event.
Rumours to that effect are spreading fast online, much to researchers’ excitement. Such a detection could mark a new era of astronomy: one in which phenomena are both seen by conventional telescopes and ‘heard’ as vibrations in the fabric of space-time. “It would be an incredible advance in our understanding,” says Stuart Shapiro, an astrophysicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.
Scientists who work with gravitational-wave detectors won’t comment on the gossip because the data is still under analysis. Public records show that telescopes around the world have been looking at the same galaxy since last week, but astronomers caution that they could have been picking up signals from an unrelated source.
Update 25 August: The LIGO–Virgo collaboration posted its top-level update* , saying: “Some promising gravitational-wave candidates have been identified in data from both LIGO and Virgo during our preliminary analysis, and we have shared what we currently know with astronomical observing partners. We are working hard to assure that the candidates are valid gravitational-wave events, and it will require time to establish the level of confidence needed to bring any results to the scientific community and the greater public. We will let you know as soon we have information ready to share.”