NASA's Fermi telescope was able to pick up gamma rays near a black hole merger associated with gravitational waves, scientists have found.
In September 2015, experts were able to detect energy waves that slightly shackled space-time on Earth. The said event was caused by a black hole merger and was detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) centers. This event is said to be the first identification of gravitational waves, brimming hope that more discoveries about how the universe functions are to come.
After barely a second, the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) on NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected another very short, faint burst of high-energy light. The interesting part is, it was detected in the same location.
Upon investigation, experts suggest that the event being a coincidence only has a 0.2 percent likelihood.
"This is a tantalizing discovery with a low chance of being a false alarm, but before we can start rewriting the textbooks we'll need to see more bursts associated with gravitational waves from black hole mergers," says GBM team member Valerie Connaughton.
Power Duo: Gravitational Waves And Gamma Rays
Gravitational waves are ripples that hold energy throughout the universe. They result from some of the most powerful processes in the universe and are produced in specific gravitational interactions, travelling outside its source.
Gamma rays have small wavelengths but have the highest energy wave in the electromagnetic spectrum. They are generated by the hottest and strongest objects such as neutron stars and areas around black holes.
The Fermi GBM telescope views a vast part of the sky that is not obstructed by Earth. It is also very sensitive to gamma rays. These make the GBM the leading device to detect short gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), which last for shorter than two seconds.
GRBs occur when two rotating objects rotate inward and collide against each other. These systems are also said to be the main manufacturers of gravitational waves.
LIGO's Lindy Blackburn explains that with just a single combined event, gravitational waves and gamma rays may be able to reveal what really causes short GRBs.
Gamma rays determine the nearby surroundings and the energy details of the source, while gravitational waves generate a novel quest of the details resulting in the event. Blackburn describes this combination as an incredible synergy.
More To Improve
Existing centers where gravitational waves have been observed are still not competitive in terms of the quality of images they provide. The blurry vision, however, is expected to improve as more centers start to operate.
Current facilities are able to cover the curve of sky measuring approximately 600 square degrees. GBM team member Eric Burns says that it is a wide area to search for when all that is desired is a short GRB, which can be weak and very rapid. Despite this, he remains positive, saying a GBM detection enables the team to trim the LIGO location and narrow down the areas for research.