A mysterious cosmic event was detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Virgo interferometer on January 14. And the burst only lasted for 14 milliseconds. Where did the gravitational wave signal come from? Was it just a blip in the system? Researchers are trying to find out the reason for these questions.
What could cause these distortions in space-time?
The collision of massive objects could cause them. For example, they could be caused by the crash of two two neutron stars or black holes. These distortions in space-time could be compared to what astronomers detected back in 2017, which was due to a neutron star collision. A second similar event took place in April of 2019.
Andy Howell, a staff scientist at Los Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network and an adjunct faculty member in physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, shares his opinions.
In general, if such an event takes place, the gravitational waves would manifest differently. He believes that the series of waves were the cause of a supernova explosion.
The mysterious gravitational wave signal hit the Earth
The burst still “seems a little too short for what we expect from the collapse of a massive star,” he said. “On the other hand, we’ve never seen a star blowing up in gravitational waves before, so we don’t really know what it would look like.” Astronomers have not detected any particles that supernovas are known to release.
Another hypothesis for this mysterious event could be the merging of black holes. The signal fired would be similar to the ones detected by laser, around a couple of seconds as well. However, yet again, astronomers have not discovered any series of waves that change in frequency to prove this point.
The mysterious cosmic event could also be a just false alarm. “The universe always surprises us,” Howell added. “There could be totally new astronomical events out there that produce gravitational waves that we haven’t really thought about.”