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Burst of Gamma-Ray Detected Near Gravitational Wave

First Posted: Apr 21, 2016 05:27 AM EDT

A slight space-time ripple was detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) on September 14, 2015. Upon analyzing the signal, physicists came to the conclusion that these gravitational waves were caused by the merging of a black hole, around 1.3 billion light-years away. The event was called "GW150914."

According to Discovery News, the observation confirmed one of the last of Einstein's predictions about general relativity, showing the human race that black holes really do exist. This detection is the first view of astronomy that can change the way humans see the universe in the future.

NASA announced that the space-based gamma-ray observatory was able to detect a faint signal near the predicted wave source, and provided a breathtaking insight regarding the black hole merger. A NASA news release noted that when black holes collide, they are assumed to do so "cleanly," not leaving behind any kind of electromagnetic trace. However, a gamma-ray burst (GRB) happened less than a second after LIGO registered the gravitational waves, which means that the two signals may have been related to the same event.

It seems likely, after all, that there is only a 0.2 percent chance that they occurred in the same patch of sky at the same time but belonged to different high-energy phenomena.

But why is this detection so important? Luis Lehner from the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics in Ontario said that the discovery is important in three ways: first is the confirmation of the existence of gravitational waves. Second is the existence of the binary black hole system. Finally, he said that short of sending someone into it, this is a direct evidence of the existence of black holes.

That is not all. According to LIGO physicist and spokesperson Gabriela Gonzalez, this is also the birth of a new era: welcome to the field of gravitational astronomy.

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