Less than half a second after the first direct evidence of gravitational waves was recorded on 14 September 2015, a very short, faint signal was registered by NASA’s Fermi Telescope from the same region in space.
High-energy light particles called gamma rays were caught emanating from a black hole merger in the area, and the discovery will not only help physicists pinpoint the exact source of the gravitational wave – if confirmed, it has huge implications for our understanding of the fundamental physics that govern our Universe.
“Gamma-rays arising from a black hole merger would be a landmark finding because black holes are expected to merge ‘cleanly’, without producing any sort of light,” NASA explains.
First off, here’s what we know. On September 14, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) facilities in Washington and Louisiana picked up the first direct evidence of Einstein’s gravitational waves, traced to the merging of two black holes (called binary black holes) around 1.3 billion years ago. The discovery was significant for two reasons, as Fiona MacDonald reported for us earlier this year:
“This event – which in itself is a big deal, seeing as no one had ever spotted a binary black hole merger before – was so massive that it significantly warped the fabric of space time, creating ripples that spread out across the Universe… finally reaching us last year.”
Now, researchers at NASA have just announced that they too picked up on something strange on September 14 – a very faint burst of gamma rays that occurred less than half a second after the gravitational waves, and in the same region of space.Coincidence? We can’t discount it just yet, but NASA says there’s a 0.2 percent chance of these two events randomly occurring in the same place at the same time. At the very least, the discovery – which was picked up by the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) on NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope – will help scientists figure out exactly where this black hole merger occurred 1.3 billion years ago. Source: NASA has detected strange signals coming from the gravitational wave source