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Scientists found 2 black hole mergers in just 21 minutes, but that's not what we were hoping for



Last Wednesday, the discovery of a gravitational wave surprised astronomers quite a bit. While the researchers were working at the LIGO, a pair of gravity waves rolled in just a few minutes.

The first, designated S190828j, was taken from the three gravity wave gravity detectors at 06:34 hrs. Coordinated Universal Time. The second, S190828l, was measured at 06:55 – just 21 minutes later.

They both seemed to run from the mill dying screams of black holes as they clamped together. But that's why it's so surprising: astronomers wouldn't expect to see a pair of signals in such rapid succession.

In fact, this is only the second time that two detections have turned on the same day. Moreover, at first glance they also seemed echoes of more or less the same spots in the sky.

"That's real" Uh, wait, what ?; We have never seen this before … "a moment in the gravitational wave astronomy", astrophysicist Robert Rutledge of McGill University later tweeted after speculating openly that this might not be a coincidence.

No one can blame Routledge for being excited. After all, unexpected events are what make the discoveries. Like he said, it's real-time science.

One possibility, briefly stated, was that S190828j and S190828l are actually the same wave, separated by some distortion in space before being roughly thrown together. That would be huge .

Gravity lenses – the deforming effect that the intervention mass has on space, as described by general relativity – can separate and duplicate the rays of light from distant objects. This has become a useful tool for astronomers in measuring distances.

If this was indeed a two-for-one deal, this would be the first time a gravity wave has been observed through a gravity lens.

Alas, now it seems rather unlikely. Over time, new details emerged showing that the two signals did not overlap enough to originate from the same source.


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