Amazing astronomy: How neutron stars create ripples in space-time

What can cause a ripple in both space and time? Neutron stars colliding. And what can observe that phenomenon? A two-mile-long laser.

Michell Thaller, the Assistant Director of Science Communication at NASA, wanted to talk to us about a heavy subject matter. Specifically, super-dense neutron stars that are so dense that they're only the size of New York City but carry the weight of the sun. And when they circle each other in orbit for long enough, they collide with enough force to send ripples in both space and time. Those ripples alone are strong enough to alter the course of light. In fact, just a few years ago a rare astronomical event occurred where you'd have seen a star "blink" for a few minutes on and off before disappearing for good. Scientists are able to detect these gravitational ripples thanks to a LIGO, or a Laser Interferometric Gravitational-Wave Observatory, which measures the refraction of light based on gravity waves. Oh, and one more thing: Albert Einstein correctly deduced that this phenomenon years before it was ever recorded. If you'd like to know more, visit NASA.

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Artist's impression of two neutron stars colliding. Credit: Dana Berry, SkyWorks Digital

Last September, scientists at a special observatory announced that they detected a gravitational wave for the first time. The detection took place in September, 2015, but wasn’t announced until last year. The observatory is known as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). It registered ripples in space-time formed from the collision of two black holes. Apparently, the fabric of the universe ripples just as water does.

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Einstein’s Gravitational Theory Leads to Nobel Prize Win for Scientists Who Proved It

These scientists scooped up the Nobel by detecting a ripple in space-time.

Albert Einstein. Credit: Getty Images.

Officials in Sweden have just announced the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics. Three American scientists won for detecting, for the very first time, gravitational waves or ripples in space-time, which were first predicted by Einstein back in 1916. Rainer Weiss of MIT, and Barry Barish and Kip Thorne of Caltech were this year’s recipients.

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Hey Bill Nye! Do the Laws of Nature Allow for God?

Physics finds no trace of God so far—but does it matter?

Can God exist out there in space-time? Do the laws of nature support the idea of a divine creator, or do they rule it out? At the moment, the existence of a god is a deep question for theologists and philosophers: it won't become a scientific question until there is evidence of God. With so much uncertainty, the question Bill Nye likes to focus on instead is: how would that knowledge change your life? Is who you are, with and without religion, two different versions of your self? The reality is that you don't need evidence of any god to live a good life. For Nye personally, he goes by the moral framework of "be responsible for my own actions, and leave the world better than I found it." That's probably the surest way to protect the life of the people and the earth that we have, whether or not it was made by higher power.

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Hey Bill Nye! Is Time Real?

Time is this wild fourth dimension in nature, says Bill Nye. We depend on its neat measurements for survival – but subjectively it continues to elude us.

Our brains are terrible clocks. An hour can pass like a few minutes, a day can drag on for what seems like two. Because of that, we’re not always sure that time is real – is it just a label we’ve stuck onto the observed patterns of our universe? We can’t see, feel, or hear time, we can only see its effect on us and on things over the course of our lives. Bill Nye believes its both subjective and objective – there is something definitively measurable to time, and yet it’s so mysterious to our brains. Nye thinks (or hopes) that in his lifetime, a new discovery will be made about the nature of time and space-time that gives us some more answers about this curiosity-inducing fourth dimension. Bill Nye's most recent book is Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.

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