The LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave observatories will be making an important announcement early next week. While there aren’t too many details available at the moment, the observatories have promised to discuss “new findings” at the upcoming press conference, which is set to take place at the Press Club in Washington, D.C., at 10 a.m. EDT on Monday, October 16.
According to an official press release from the National Science Foundation, the press conference won’t just include Virgo and LIGO’s gravitational wave scientists. Representatives from about 70 observatories will also be present for what is being hyped as a major announcement of new findings from LIGO, Virgo, and its worldwide partners. The two observatories’ scientists will also be discussing details from telescopes that track “extreme events in the cosmos.”
So far, there have been four confirmed gravitational wave sightings, with the first taking place on September 14, 2015 and getting announced February 11, 2016. As the NSF recalled, this was a “milestone” in physics and astronomy, taking place little more than a century after Albert Einstein formulated his general theory of relativity in 2015. The most recent sighting was documented late last month, and marked the first time both Virgo and LIGO had jointly spotted gravitational waves in the universe, according to a press release posted on the LIGO website.
“This is just the beginning of observations with the network enabled by Virgo and LIGO working together,” said MIT’s David Shoemaker, LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) spokesman.
“With the next observing run planned for fall 2018 we can expect such detections weekly or even more often.”
The Washington, D.C. press conference won’t be the only one on Monday announcing important gravitational wave breakthroughs. The European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced earlier this week that it will hold a press conference on Monday, 4 p.m. Central European Summer Time. Likewise, the ESO press release was coy when it came to the details about the new findings, stating that further information will only be provided after registration for the conference.
With the ESO, Virgo, and LIGO observatories all mum about their gravitational wave findings, GeekWirespeculated that the press conferences may be in relation to the discovery of neutron star smash-ups or stellar explosions, which have yet to be discovered by LIGO in particular as a source of the waves. The former possibility is thought of as being more likely, as scientists believe that the collision of two black holes isn’t capable of producing light, and previous research suggested that LIGO’s most recent of three black hole merger discoveries did not line up with any electromagnetic observations.
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