Scientists think they have detected an “unknown or unexpected” burst of gravitational waves coming from somewhere in deep space.
The oscillation in space-time was unexpectedly detected by the LIGO experiment, which was specially designed to detect gravitational waves.
Astronomers have a picture of which part of the sky the outbreak originated and will try to find more information on its source by further studying the area.
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But for now there are very few indications of what could have caused the explosion, which sent ripples across the fabric of the universe that have been detected by LIGO in the past few hours.
Such errors are expected to occur only once every 25 years, which indicates that the explosion probably originates from an astrophysical event.
Astronomers have long hoped that successful detection of gravitational waves will allow them to see the universe in a completely different way. Such explosive gravitational ways could be an important way to do it – but they have yet to be found and scientists don’t know exactly how they will be.
LIGO describes them as “gravitational waves crashing in the night”, and scientists admit that it is not clear where they might come from. While astrophysicists have long predicted that they might happen, there is too little information about the parts of the universe that could generate them to tell when they might arrive or how they will appear when they do.
“The search for exploded gravitational waves requires a totally open minded,” reads the LIGO website. “For this type of gravitational wave, scientists have to recognize a pattern of signals even when such a pattern hasn’t been predicted or modeled (as we think a signal might look) before. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s really hard to find it.
“While this makes the search for exploded gravitational waves difficult, their detection has the greatest potential to reveal revolutionary information about the Universe.”
Some speculated that the wave may have come from Betelgeuse, a nearby star that is behaving strangely and may be about to explode in a supernova. But that star still seems to be in place and the wave doesn’t seem to come from the correct part of the sky.
Michael Merrifield, a professor of astronomy at the University of Nottingham, described the event as “strange” on Twitter, and suggested that further observations should provide more detail as to where it came from.