MSU Scientists Help Detect Gravity Waves in August
Albert Einstein predicted "gravity waves" as part of his theory on general relativity back in 1916. They've be hard to find since then. The first official detection was only two years ago, when instruments caught two black holes merging.
Then, this past August, two neutron stars crashed into each other, and the Louisiana-based LIGO, (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory), caught the moment in time, as did the European Virgo gravitational wave detector.
Though the gravity waves were detected at 6:41 a.m. Mountain Time August 17th, the actual collision of the dense stars happened 130 million years ago. The light from that event just reached Earth this year.
Neil Cornish of Montana State University in Bozeman, along with physics graduate student Margaret Millhouse, were part of the LIGO team. Also, a technique developed at MSU helped observers remove extraneous information from the data to enhance details. Cornish and former graduate student Tyson Littenberg put that algorithm together. Littenberg now works at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.
The neutron stars also produced high-energy gamma rays and X-rays, visible light, infrared light and radio waves," Cornish said. About 70 ground- and space-based observatories detected the merger and its aftermath.
The discovery was published this week in the journal "Physical Review Letters." Cornish, in an MSU news release, said the merger also threw off material into space that scientists believe fuses into gold and platinum.
Cornish said, "It was estimated that ... would produce roughly a Jupiter-size of gold - worth 100 million trillion trillion dollars at today's prices."
That comment was backed up by the Hubble Space Telescope and the European Very Large Telescope, which both noted radioactive decay associated with production of gold.
Experts are calling the detection the most significant discovery in astronomy since the initial detection of gravity waves in 2015.
Gravity waves cause a "ripple in space-time," like a ripple in water. It was just a theory until the recent observations. The existence of the waves opens up more areas of research of the universe.