As the Inquisitr reported earlier this month, astronomers detected the presence of gravitational waves for the first time in 2017. The major astronomical event was picked up by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in Livingston, Louisiana, as science witnessed, in an absolute first, the merger of two neutron stars.
Subsequent gravitational wave detections by LIGO and the Europe-based Virgo detector have also linked gravitational waves with the merger of black holes.
But a new study on this recently discovered phenomenon challenges our understanding of gravitational waves, revealing that they could be created by rotating wormholes instead, Phys.org reports.
The idea behind the research, published in the journal Physical Review D, is that black holes have a major disadvantage that could disprove them as the origin of gravitational waves.
This inconvenience that the study points to is the event horizon — the edge of a black hole that represents the point of no return “within which nothing can be seen and nothing can escape, because the necessary escape velocity would equal or exceed the speed of light (a physical impossibility),” explains The Physics Of The Universe.
Its existence contradicts the theories of quantum mechanics, which state that everything is preserved and never lost. However, the conflict could be solved if we substitute black holes with wormholes, which don’t have an event horizon.
According to Phys.org, things would make much more sense if we thought of the alleged black holes as a particular kind of exotic compact objects (ECOs), such as wormholes.
— Phys.org (@physorg_com) June 12, 2018
As the study authors explain, the event horizon swallows the final act of the gravitational waves, known as a ringdown, and makes it rapidly disappear.
The team has studied the ringdown of gravitational waves as detected by the LIGO and Virgo observations and has come to the conclusion that the telescope readings would remain largely the same if the gravitational waves were produced by wormholes.
The main difference would be that, in this scenario, the ringdown wouldn’t be completely extinguished, but rather create a series of echoes “similar to what happens with sound in a well.”
“Interestingly, if instead of black holes, we had an ECO, the ringdown could be similar, so we need to determine the presence or absence of the echoes to distinguish the two types of objects,” note Spanish researchers Pablo Bueno and Pablo A. Cano from KU Leuven University in Belgium.
The scientists argue that these echoes of gravitational waves have not yet been observed because there simply aren’t theoretical models or references to account for them.
To prove their theory, the researchers devised their own model that shows how to detect gravitational waves produced not by two colliding black holes but by two rotating wormholes in the process of merging with each other.
Their theoretical experiments showed that the graphs describing the resulted gravitational waves were fairly similar in either case, but for the occurrence of echoes in the wormhole scenario.
While such echoes have not yet been officially confirmed, Bueno comments on what their discovery would mean for the future of astrophysics.
“The confirmation of echoes in the LIGO or Virgo signals would be a practically irrefutable proof that astrophysical black holes don’t exist. Time will tell if these echoes exist or not. If the result were positive, it would be one of the greatest discoveries in the history of physics.”