Scientists hunting for gravitational waves found ripples in space-time revealing five possible collisions, including one involving a black hole eating a neutron star.
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory uses faint ripples in space-time to find gravitational waves that result from titanic collisions between cosmic objects as far as billions of light-years from Earth.
There was a time when such sightings are impossible to spot from Earth, but with the recent updates to LIGO, scientists are able to record gravitational wave events almost weekly.
LIGO Records 5 Collisions In 1 Month
In the beginning of April, scientists behind LIGO began the observatory's third round of observations. With two detector locations in Washington and Louisiana, the team collaborated with the Europe-based Virgo detector and quickly detected a range of cosmic collisions in the span of a single month.
A total of five potential gravitational-wave candidates have been recorded in the month of April 2019. This is nearly half of all previous observations combined, which only add up to 11 events.
Three of these events are black hole collisions, but the last two are much rare sights for astronomers: one of a neutron star merger 500 million light-years away and another of a black hole swallowing a neutron star in its entirety 1.2 billion light-years away.
All of these signals detected by LIGO and Virgo are awaiting confirmation with follow-up analysis.
A New Era In Gravitational Wave Observations
As impressive as all these detections are, it's only the beginning of this field of study as scientists constantly calibrate and improve LIGO to detect collisions that are farther and farther away.
"The most exciting thing of the beginning of O3 [this third observation round] is that it's clear we are going from one event every few months to a few events every month," explained Salvatore Vitale, a researcher at the LIGO Laboratory at MIT, during the news conference. "This is going to allow for all these kinds of tests that require either a very loud, very clear detection or a lot of detections. And we will have both of them."
In the future, the gravitational wave detectors could be capable of finding distant supernovas as well as signals from spinning neutron stars.
The team has also set up an automated public alert system to keep the people updated on the events detected by LIGO and Virgo. Now, astronomy enthusiasts can keep track of the action and get a more detailed glimpse into the process online.