A rumour that the world’s largest gravitational-wave observatory has caught the first whiff of its quarry is heating up.
Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time produced by massive bodies accelerating through space, such as pairs of neutron stars orbiting each other or the merging of two black holes.
They were predicted as part of Einstein’s general relativity a century ago, but have yet to be seen directly. Finding them would confirm the final piece of his theory, and also give us a new way to view the universe, allowing us to probe distant objects that might otherwise be dark or obscured by interstellar dust.
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) searched for such signals from 2002 to 2010 with no luck. Its more sensitive successor, Advanced LIGO or aLIGO, started collecting data on 18 September.
Now Krauss claims that the original rumour has been confirmed by an independent source.
“Stay tuned!” he tweeted. “Gravitational waves may have been discovered!! Exciting.”
Off Twitter, however, Krauss was more cautious. The signal could have been a false one deliberately injected into the data to test the detection team. “I’m told this isn’t that,” Krauss told New Scientist. His source says that the LIGO collaboration is writing up a paper on the possible find. “That suggests it’s not a false signal – but who knows for sure?”
The official word from the LIGO team is that they are still analysing the data from the first run, which should finish on 12 January. “It takes time to analyse, interpret and review results,” says spokesperson Gabriela González at Louisiana State University. “We expect to have news on the run results in the next few months.”
“We’ll use something other than the rumour mill when we have a contribution to the discussion!” adds David Shoemaker at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.