Not a ripple

Scientists find no gravity waves, but do make new conclusions about the Crab Pulsar

In 2002, NASA‘s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope captured data for this composite image of the Crab Pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star the size of Manhattan. The pulsar is the brightest spot in the center of the Crab Nebula shown here. From November 2005 until August 2006, using a set of telescopes called LIGO and the radio telescope at Jodrell Bank in England, scientists again looked at the Crab Pulsar. The LIGO science team searched for any emission of gravitational waves — ripples in the fabric of space and time — and to see if the waves were in sync with the pulsar’s radio emissions. No gravitational waves were detected.

NULL RESULT In 2002, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope captured data for this composite image of the Crab Pulsar, a neutron star the size of Manhattan. The pulsar is the brightest spot in the center of the Crab Nebula shown here. Since then, scientists have searched for any emission of gravitational waves but haven’t detected any so far. NASA, CXC, ASU, J. Hester et al., HST

Despite the null result, scientists conclude that less than 4 percent of the Crab’s energy is lost due to gravity waves. The team based the findings on the radio data and the current sensitivity limits of the LIGO detectors. The report was submitted to Astrophysical Journal Letters and posted online.

photo of Ashley Yeager

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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