Scientists have found signs of a new kind of gravitational wave. It’s really big

Scientists have reported signs of a new type of large-scale gravitational wave, potentially originating from supermassive black holes at the center of merging galaxies.

The breakthrough: The North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) has reported signs of large-scale gravitational waves, opening new ways to study supermassive black holes.
* This gravitational wave pattern is likened to ripples that move in a pond when a rock is tossed in, but on a universal scale.
* Stephen Taylor, a Vanderbilt University astrophysicist chairing the NANOGrav team, said they’ve been seeking these waves, often described as a “low-pitched hum,” for the last fifteen years.

New detection method: To detect these gravitational waves which have wavelengths as long as 4 light years (around “20 million million miles”), scientists used the galaxy itself as a detector.
* This method, led by NANOGrav, employs pulsars, the super-dense, spinning cores of dead stars that regularly emit radio waves.
* A slight change in the expected arrival time of these waves at Earth could indicate a gravitational wave passing through.

The findings: The latest analysis used data from about 70 pulsars and hints at gravitational waves shaking space-time.
* Scientists cannot yet pinpoint the waves’ origin, but they suggest the possibility of supermassive black holes or objects related to dark matter or primordial black holes.
* Researchers plan to combine their findings with data from the International Pulsar Timing Array in the next couple of years to strengthen the evidence and potentially locate a distinct source of the waves.

Confirmation and anticipation: Gabriela González, member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), confirmed the findings.
* The detection of this kind of gravitational waves will amplify as more pulsar data is collected.
* NANOGrav plans to analyze more recent datasets which will further solidify this gravitational wave discovery.

View original article on NPR

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