Rumours swell over new kind of gravitational-wave sighting

Davide Castelvecchi in Nature:

NGC4993picAstrophysicists may have detected gravitational waves last week from the collision of two neutron stars in a distant galaxy — and telescopes trained on the same region might also have spotted the event.

Rumours to that effect are spreading fast online, much to researchers’ excitement. Such a detection could mark a new era of astronomy: one in which phenomena are both seen by conventional telescopes and ‘heard’ as vibrations in the fabric of space-time. “It would be an incredible advance in our understanding,” says Stuart Shapiro, an astrophysicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

Scientists who work with gravitational-wave detectors won’t comment on the gossip because the data is still under analysis. Public records show that telescopes around the world have been looking at the same galaxy since last week, but astronomers caution that they could have been picking up signals from an unrelated source.

As researchers hunt for signals in their data, Nature explains what is known so far, and the possible implications of any discovery.

More here. [Thanks to Farrukh Azfar.]