Gravity Waves Give Twin Stars Speed Boost, Scientists Say
Two stars circling each other are speeding up in a tell-tale way that scientists attribute to gravitational waves: ripples in the very fabric of space and time.
Image: This illustration shows the gravitational waves thought to be produced by two orbiting white dwarf stars in a binary system called J0651, according to an August 2012 study. Credit: NASA
The stars are dense objects called white dwarfs, which are so close together they take less than 13 minutes to orbit each other. The two white dwarfs, remnants of stars that used to be as big as our sun, are only spread apart by one-third of the distance between the Earth and the moon.
In observing this system, astronomers have made the first measurements in optical light of motions that must be caused by gravitational waves, they said.
“This result marks one of the cleanest and strongest detections of the effect of gravitational waves,” astronomer Warren Brown of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory said in a statement.