Mini gravity wave detector may have found something new in the universe

A new gravitational wave detector has found two signals that could take this type of research to a new level. Unlike larger instruments in the category, such as LIGO and Virgo, the new device consists only of a disk made of quartz crystal, 3 cm in diameter. Its detections, however, are still a mystery.

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When we hit a surface with a hammer, we hear the sound of the crash because the collision releases a certain amount of energy that is spread through the air in the form of ripples. These ripples, in turn, reach our hearing aid, and our brain interprets these signals as “sound”.

Similarly, the collision between massive cosmic objects such as neutron stars and black holes, release energy that spreads through the universe in the form of ripples in the fabric of spacetime. These ripples travel in all directions at the speed of light, but weaken as they move into unknown space.

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Some of them, however, reach us on Earth and can be detected by LIGO and Virgo — that they use gigantic laser-powered devices to search for the huge ripples in spacetime. The waves created by cosmic cataclysmic collisions are so powerful they are hundreds of kilometers long.

Gravitational waves, in artistic design (Image: Reproduction/ ESA/C .Carreau)

However, there must be waves gravitational minors, caused by events of smaller proportions, or even the resonance of events that occurred just after the Big Bang. At that time, the universe went through transitional phases so drastic that scientists expect the ripples created at those times to resonate to this day, just as the cosmic background radiation provides a remnant of light from that time.

To find these tiny gravitational wave signals, scientists built the small quartz Christian device, with a resonant chamber that produces an electrical signal whenever it vibrates at certain frequencies. These frequencies, selected by the researchers to result in a positive detection, correspond to the length of the gravitational waves they want to find: just a few meters, or a few kilometers.

This experiment performed a test of 1024 days, during which the crystal resonated twice, each for a second or two. Scientists are now trying to figure out what caused these results: cosmic rays flowing in space? Any special events? Or is it the emission of ripples caused by dark matter around a black hole?

The small gravitational wave detector (Image: Reproduction /Michael Tobar)

There are many possible explanations for these signals, including thermal fluctuation in the crystal itself (which should be minimal due to the supercold temperatures induced by scientists, but unknown fluctuations cannot yet be ruled out). Among the possibilities are some hypotheses about a new physics, such as the axion particle, one of the candidates for a component of dark matter.

For now, there is not enough evidence to suggest what the events were that resulted in the waves detected by the crystal, but this result means that similar new devices can be created. If several of them detect the same signal at the same time, it will be easier to develop hypotheses that can explain the events.

The study was published in the Physical Review Letters.


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