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An ‘unknown’ burst of gravitational waves just lit up Earth’s detectors – CNET

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Ripples in space-time.

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Caltech/MIT/LIGO/T. Pyle

Earth’s gravitational wave observatories — which hunt for ripples in the fabric of space-time — just picked up something weird. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and Virgo detectors recorded an unknown or unanticipated “burst” of gravitational waves on Jan. 14

The gravitational waves we’ve detected so far usually relate to extreme cosmic events, like two black holes colliding or neutron stars finally merging after being caught in a death spiral. Burst gravitational waves have not been detected before and scientists hypothesize they may be linked to phenomena such as supernova or gamma ray bursts, producing a tiny “pop” when detected by the observatories.

This unanticipated burst has been dubbed, for now, S200114f, and was detected by the software that helped confirm the first detection of gravitational waves.

Working backward, astronomers have been able to pinpoint where the burst came from — and many astronomy buffs on Twitter began wondering about the fate of a nearby red giant star, Betelgeuse. Recent analysis has shown Betelgeuse is acting weird and astronomers speculated it could be on the verge of a magnificent explosion.

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