A massive international team made history in 2016 when they announced that, for the first time ever, they’d confirmed the existence of gravitational waves – ripples in the fabric of spacetime from the collision of two black holes.
Now we have a fresh development in this exciting new era of gravitational wave astronomy – and we’re so beyond thrilled that we’re updating live as the press conference happens.
In August, rumours about this announcement started bubbling to the surface, thanks to a tweet by University of Texas astronomer J. Craig Wheeler. “New LIGO,” he wrote. “Source with optical counterpart. Blow your sox off!”
This immediately set the speculation wheels turning that LIGO had detected not a black hole collision like before, but a neutron star merger, which would not only produce gravitational waves, but possibly leave behind light detectable by optical telescopes.
Just a month later, we’re finally finding out what that sock-blowing new detection really is.
We’re live-updating the story below as the announcement happens, so keep refreshing for more information! (And apologies in advance for any typos we might make in the excitement.)
12:15pm EST: It’s 15 minutes to go until the announcement starts! Anyone else super-excited? We’re super-excited despite the fact it’s past 2am here in Sydney, Australia. While we’re waiting for the press conference to kick off, here’s some more background on why a gravitational wave detection from neutron stars would be such a big deal.
Since its first 2016 announcement, LIGO made two more detections from black hole collisions. Then earlier this year, LIGO and another gravitational wave detector, VIRGO, took observations together, allowing for more precise signal triangulation.
If they have now achieved a detection of gravitational waves from a neutron star merger, it means not only we may learn something new about this type of cosmic collision, but it will also be the very first time we have detected gravitational waves of this particular type – another breakthrough for the new era of gravitational wave astronomy.
12:30pm EST: The announcement is starting! We’re watching the webcast live from G7 Science at Reggia di Venaria Media Center in Turin, Italy.
12:32pm EST: Actually, we’re still waiting for the livestream to start. We hope they haven’t forgotten about us!
12:37pm EST: Still no livestream, but this press release just went live on the LIGO website.
“The LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo collaboration report the first joint detection of gravitational waves with both the LIGO and Virgo detectors. This is the fourth announced detection of a binary black hole system and the first significant gravitational-wave signal recorded by the Virgo detector, and highlights the scientific potential of a three-detector network of gravitational-wave detectors.”
Doesn’t look like we have neutron stars.
12:40pm EST: WE HAVE THE LIVESTREAM!