Our planet earth experienced an odd event on September 14th, 2015. A brief gamma ray reaction took place in close proximity to a gravitational wave source.
It was in the middle of 2015 that our planet experienced a ripple in time. It was noticed by the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory).
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Upon analysis, scientists found that this spurt of gravitational waves was the result of two black holes that were melding with each other. They were approximately 1.3 billion light years away.
Termed the GW150914, the observed phenomenon was announced to the rest of the world on February 11th. This observation seemed to confirm Einstein’s century old theory of general relativity.
Also the existence of huge black holes was confirmed via this event. Some of them had solar masses as high as 30 suns. They may in fact be more common than was thought of previously.
This is also the first time that a novel type of astronomy has been given birth. It may be a game changer in the scheme of things. Gravitational wave astronomy enters the invisible realm of energy that only gives itself away by its effects instead of its appearances.
This visualization shows gravitational waves emitted by two black holes (black spheres) of nearly equal mass as they spiral together and merge. Yellow structures near the black holes illustrate the strong curvature of space-time in the region. Orange ripples represent distortions of space-time caused by the rapidly orbiting masses. These distortions spread out and weaken, ultimately becoming gravitational waves (purple). The merger timescale depends on the masses of the black holes. For a system containing black holes with about 30 times the sun’s mass, similar to the one detected by LIGO in 2015, the orbital period at the start of the movie is just 65 milliseconds, with the black holes moving at about 15 percent the speed of light. Space-time distortions radiate away orbital energy and cause the binary to contract quickly. As the two black holes near each other, they merge into a single black hole that settles into its "ringdown" phase, where the final gravitational waves are emitted. For the 2015 LIGO detection, these events played out in little more than a quarter of a second. This simulation was performed on the Pleiades supercomputer at NASA's Ames Research Center. Credits: NASA/J. Bernard Kelly (Goddard), Chris Henze (Ames) and Tim Sandstrom (CSC Government Solutions LLC)
This day in time though NASA made the announcement that its space observatory had detected a barely noticable signal in the region of the black holes.
The high energy X-rays seemed to be like the short gamma ray burst that occurred for merely half a second. It had been supposed in the past that black holes smash into each other in a clean and clear-cut fashion.
Yet here was proof that the signals may be from the same event and show something altogether different about the merging black holes.
This discovery is being analyzed in depth. While it has revolutionary implications, more instances of these gamma ray bursts are needed to corroborate the previous research. We still have a long way to go.
Perhaps sometime in the future, the real nature of gamma ray burst will have been figured out. Till that time the scientists can keep their fingers crossed and hope for the best.
The gravitational wave signal was probably the black holes chirping. The signal was somewhat of a surprise and shocked the scientists who could not make it fit their previous models. It just goes to show you that the universe does not need to consult the scientists’ textbooks in order to function.
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Fermi's GBM saw a fading X-ray flash at nearly the same moment LIGO detected gravitational waves from a black hole merger in 2015. This movie shows how scientists can narrow down the location of the LIGO source on the assumption that the burst is connected to it. In this case, the LIGO search area is reduced by two-thirds. Greater improvements are possible in future detections. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center