Another Neutron star merger produces more gravitational waves

This is the second-ever observation of such a signal resulting from this type of an event

Faisal Khan
Jan 14 · 3 min read

Astronomers have recently observed gravitational waves from a neutron star smash. Although scientists have detected 50 such instances of gravitational waves since 2016, this is only the second time they have been produced & observed as a result of two neutron stars colliding.

Einstein had predicted the existence of such a phenomenon in his general theory of relativity in 1916, which implied that massive celestial bodies involved in such a collision would produce shockwaves in spacetime itself. The phenomenon came to be known as .

Going back to 2015, scientists detected ripples in the spacetime continuum — pulling & stretching the space around them. These waves which washed over our planet after traveling more than a billion light-years confirmed Einstein’s prediction. Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) picked up the first such signal on Sep. 24 of that year.

The 2015 detection of gravitational is perhaps one of the most important scientific discoveries of our time. Proposed by Einstein almost a century ago, the phenomenon of gravitational waves remained a mystery as we have didn’t have an instrument strong enough to detect or observe them. Physicists Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne & Barry Barish were awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics for decoding this long-standing mystery.

For the next two years, Physicists working with mammoth gravitational-wave detectors picked up four such disturbances which bumped into us. The fifth such event, however, was also seen by them — containing every wavelength of light from gamma radiation to radio waves. The observation confirmed the collision of two superdense neutron stars which spiraled into each other. First of its kind celestial light show provided us with a trove of information.

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The latest observation of gravitational waves resulting from the second-ever instance of two neutron stars colliding was detected last year by the interferometer at LIGO’s Livingston Observatory in Louisiana (USA). The European Virgo detector in Italy didn’t pick up the signal & LIGO’s other interferometer in Washington was offline at the time.

Observations of the current event confirmed that the neutron stars merger took place more than 500 million light-years away — in a patch of space that makes up about 20% of the sky. The biggest neutron star detected so far had a mass of about 2.17 times that of our sun, while LIGO suggests a combined mass of the merged neutron stars to be about 3.4 times the sun’s mass.

Since the smallest black hole measured so far is about 3.3x the mass of the sun, there was a slight possibility that the gravitational waves might have resulted from a collision between a neutron star & a black hole. However, the data gathered so far favors the prior case.

Complete Research was submitted in the Astrophysical Journal. If accepted, it would be the first time that such findings would be published based solely on one instrument’s detection.

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Faisal Khan

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