Aug 29, 2017
Expert Voices

Universe gossip: Colliding neutron stars detected

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

There are rumors within the astronomical community that LIGO, the super-advanced gravitational wave observatory, may have spotted the signature of two neutron stars colliding.

What they are: Neutron stars are the collapsed cores of massive stars, and are some of the most exotic objects in the universe. They can form in pairs that eventually collide and release massive amounts of energy. Those collisions also create subtle ripples in gravity that might have been detected by LIGO.

What's new: This specific event was seen with traditional telescopes, but it's the first time the same collision may have been detected from radiation and gravitational waves. The LIGO team is checking the validity of their results.

Why it matters: Much of our universe is hidden from us, and gravitational waves give us access to mysterious events. Vibrations from neutron star mergers, for example, can help us understand the origin of the universe's heaviest elements. Spacetime itself is ringing like a bell — we just need to listen.

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