Pair of Eclipsing White Dwarfs Produce Gravitational Waves
Discovered last year in system J0651, two white dwarf stars are so close together that they make a complete orbit in less than 13 minutes and now astronomers have detected gravitational waves at optical wavelengths in light from them.
Cambridge, Massachusetts – 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.
“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).