Scientists observed changes in the signals coming from fast-rotating stars called millisecond pulsars that could point to the existence of subtle space-time waves that vibrate throughout the universe.
Milliseconds pulsars are stellar remnants that spin hundreds of times a second, producing precise radio pulses that can act as a cosmic metronome. Scientists believe that ripples in space-time, called gravitational waves, can affect these signals as they travel through space. When an international team of researchers recently discovered a strange interruption of the pulse signals, they determined that this may have been a product of such an interaction.
"This is a very exciting signal! Although we do not have definitive evidence yet, we may begin to detect a background of gravitational waves," said Siyuan Chen, a researcher at the Kavli Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University in China and leader of the new work. said in one announcement.
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The discovery of gravitational waves 2015 was one of the biggest astronomical highlights of the last decade. Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, published a century earlier, suggested that the structure of space-time may wave when massive objects, such as neutron stars and black holes, crash into each other and trigger ripples that are felt over great distances. But it was not until sophisticated detectors like the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the United States and Virgo Cooperation in Europe was able to the discovery of these powerful vibrations was made possible.
But there were some questions left. Physicists have theorized that the sum of the eoner value of ripples produced by these catastrophic events could have created a gravitational wave background that is constantly present and permeates the entire universe; something that has not yet been discovered.
The detection of the disturbed signal coming from the millisecond pulsars may be merely a step towards proving the existence of this background.
Extremely dense and only the size of a city, millisecond pulsars emit radio signals from their poles as they spin. The frequency of these signals is incredibly regular and can even be used as a kind of 'galactic clock' against which other phenomena can be timed.
Builds on an approach first described in January 2021, a team of astronomers working as part of the International Pulsar Timing Array (IPTA) project detected odd shifts in these signals. They believe that the disturbance may be caused by the interference from the background of the gravitational wave.
But the team is also conservative in terms of the results and recognizes that other possible explanations for their demonstrations should be ruled out. "We are also investigating what this signal might otherwise be," said Boris Goncharov, a scientist at the Parkes Pulsar Timing Array (PPTA), who collaborated on the study in the statement. "For example, it may be due to noise present in the data of individual pulsars, which may have been incorrectly modeled in our analyzes."
IPTA's data consist of the combined results of three independent data sets, collected by the European Pulsar Timing Array (EPTA), the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Wave (NANOGrav) and the PPTA.
The research was published Wednesday (January 12) in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
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