Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Space-warping white dwarfs produce gravitational waves

Date:
August 28, 2012
Source:
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Summary:
Gravitational waves, much like the recently discovered Higgs boson, are notoriously difficult to observe. Scientists first detected these ripples in the fabric of space-time indirectly, using radio signals from a pulsar-neutron star binary system. The find, which required exquisitely accurate timing of the radio signals, garnered its discoverers a Nobel Prize. Now a team of astronomers has detected the same effect at optical wavelengths, in light from a pair of eclipsing white dwarf stars.

An artist's conception of J0651 with ripples to demonstrate how the white dwarf pair is emitting gravitational waves.
Credit: NASA

Gravitational waves, much like the recently discovered Higgs boson, are notoriously difficult to observe. Scientists first detected these ripples in the fabric of space-time indirectly, using radio signals from a pulsar-neutron star binary system. The find, which required exquisitely accurate timing of the radio signals, garnered its discoverers a Nobel Prize. Now a team of astronomers has detected the same effect at optical wavelengths, in light from a pair of eclipsing white dwarf stars.

Related Articles


"This result marks one of the cleanest and strongest detections of the effect of gravitational waves," said team member Warren Brown of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO).

The team discovered the white dwarf pair last year. (White dwarfs are the remnant cores of stars like our Sun.) The system, called SDSS J065133.338+284423.37 (J0651 for short), contains two white dwarf stars so close together -- one-third of the Earth-moon distance -- that they make a complete orbit in less than 13 minutes.

"Every six minutes the stars in J0651 eclipse each other as seen from Earth, which makes for an unparalleled and accurate clock some 3,000 light-years away," said study lead author J.J. Hermes, a graduate student working with Professor Don Winget at The University of Texas at Austin.

Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts that moving objects create subtle ripples in the fabric of space-time, called gravitational waves. Gravitational waves should carry away energy, causing the stars to inch closer together and orbit each other faster and faster. The team was able to detect this effect in J0651.

"Compared to April 2011, when we discovered this object, the eclipses now happen six seconds sooner than expected," said team member Mukremin Kilic of The University of Oklahoma.

"This is a general relativistic effect you could measure with a wrist watch," added SAO's Warren Brown.

J0651 will provide an opportunity to compare future direct, space-based detection of gravitational waves with those inferred from the orbital decay, providing important benchmark tests of our understanding of the workings of gravity.

The team expects that the period will shrink more and more each year, with eclipses happening more than 20 seconds sooner than otherwise expected by May 2013. The stars will eventually merge, in two million years. Future observations will continue to measure the orbital decay of this system, and attempt to understand how tides affect the merger of such stars.

The team's results will be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and are available online.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "Space-warping white dwarfs produce gravitational waves." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120828134938.htm>.
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. (2012, August 28). Space-warping white dwarfs produce gravitational waves. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120828134938.htm
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "Space-warping white dwarfs produce gravitational waves." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120828134938.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NASA's Dawn To Make Low-Key Ceres Approach Friday

NASA's Dawn To Make Low-Key Ceres Approach Friday

Newsy (Mar. 6, 2015) NASA&apos;s Dawn spacecraft will end the travel phase of its journey to Ceres with a comparatively boring deceleration. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hubble Sees Rare 'Einstein Cross' Image Of Distant Supernova

Hubble Sees Rare 'Einstein Cross' Image Of Distant Supernova

Newsy (Mar. 5, 2015) A rare trick of the light caused by the gravity of a distant galaxy caused Hubble to see four images of the same supernova at once. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What's Up March 2015

What's Up March 2015

NASA (Mar. 4, 2015) A total solar eclipse in the North Atlantic and tips to prepare for the next U.S. eclipse. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: SpaceX Launches Rocket, Satellites on Board

Raw: SpaceX Launches Rocket, Satellites on Board

AP (Mar. 2, 2015) SpaceX launched it&apos;s 16th Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Sunday night. The rocket was carrying two commercial communications satellites. (March 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins