On August 17, 2017, folks with the LIGO/Virgo collaboration observed three clusters of gravitational waves.
This time astronomers found an infrared, visible, and X-ray event near the gravitational wave source.
The August gravitational wave observation, GW170817, is the first one where astronomers found electromagnetic waves coming from the same spot. It’s a very big deal.
- Me, the universe, and perspective
- In the news
- Making sense
I had something on another topic ready to go. Then I somehow managed to wipe out about four dozen hours of work.
An unsatisfying half-hour later, I’d salvaged my notes, been extremely frustrated, and asked my son for help. Not necessarily in that order. He’s the family ‘tech guy,’ and told me what I figured I’d hear. There wasn’t a trace of the post left. Not even in system memory.
This was about two hours before I like to have the ‘Friday’ post ready. With nothing ready. Not. A. Thing.
On reflection, “extremely frustrated” is just part of my emotional response. Maybe I’ll find a reason to write about that. Or maybe not.
On the ‘up’ side, I had a nice supper with family, relaxed — slightly — and decided I’d talk a little about GW170817, neutron stars, and Norse mythology.
That seemed more reasonable than fretting about what I lost.
Besides, although I think what I wrote might have been interesting and maybe entertaining — it was hardly the most important thing in the universe.
Stepping back a little more, the universe itself is “like a grain from a balance.”
“Indeed, before you the whole universe is like a grain from a balance, or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.
“But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook sins for the sake of repentance.”
I’m okay with that.
It’s magnetar SGR 1745-2900, near our galaxy’s center.
Magnetars are neutron stars with very powerful magnetic fields.
Neutron stars are what’s left after a star with about 10 to 29 times the mass of ours begins running out of hydrogen. We’re pretty sure we know how they form.
GW170817 is a set of gravitational waves scientists detected in August. They’re almost certainly from a pair of neutron stars which merged.
‘All of the above’ are things we didn’t know existed a few centuries back. We’re still answering questions we had about them, quite often finding new questions in the process.1
I don’t mind living in a world where much of the science I learned in high school has been replaced by more detailed, exact data. And, quite often, with new understandings of how reality works.
I like it, but some folks apparently don’t. I’ve talked about that before.
I think Sirach puts the natural beauty and wonders surrounding us and the big picture in perspective.
“Gravitational waves: So many new toys to unwrap”
Jonathan Amos, BBC News (October 17, 2017)
“Whenever there’s a big science discovery, it’s always nice to get a historical perspective. And so here goes with the remarkable observation of gravitational waves emanating from the merger of two dead stars, or neutron stars, some 130 million light-years from Earth.
“It’s 50 years since the existence of these stellar remnants was confirmed (July 1967) by the mighty Northern Irish astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell. It’s more than 40 years since we realised neutron stars might occur in pairs, or binaries, as we call them….”
Also gravitational-wave astronomy, an international science network, a Nobel Prize in Physics, Empedocles, and Michelson interferometers, and the Alcubierre metric. (October 6, 2017)
Almost immediately after the LIGO/Virgo folks reported GW170817, Science published eight GW170817-related letters. Nature published six and a special issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters had 23.
GW170817 is a very big deal.
It gives scientists the strongest evidence they found so far that merging stars and short gamma-ray bursts are connected.
It also sets a limit on the difference between the speed of light and that of gravity.
Normally I’d say more about GW170817. This isn’t a normal ‘Friday’ post, and it’s already a few hours after I’d planned on having one ready. I’ll probably come back to the topic, eventually. Meanwhile, I put links to a few related Wikipedia pages below.2
I also realize that Sacred Scriptures weren’t written contemporary Euro-Americans.
Trying to understand them from a hardwired-literal Western viewpoint is an exercise in futility.
Tradition with a capital “T” isn’t trying to live as if 1967 never happened.
It’s certainly not imagining that much of what we’ve learned about the universe since Ptolemy’s day is a lie. Or that Mesopotamian scholars knew everything worth knowing about our world. (July 23, 2017; December 2, 2016)
It’s getting late, I’ve got tasks left to finish before sleep, so I’ll end with the usual allegedly-related posts:
- “Einstein’s Waves: New Views”
(October 6, 2017)
- “Repeatable Results That Aren’t”
(April 28, 2017)
- “Knowledge: Opening the Gift”
(March 26, 2017 )
- “Baryons, Gravity Waves”
(March 24, 2017)
- “Making a Universe: Why Bother?”
(January 29, 2017)