An artist's impression of a Gamma Ray Burst. Credit:

Did a Gamma Ray Burst Accompany LIGO’s Gravity Wave Detection?

Article written: 18 Feb , 2016
Updated: 18 Mar , 2016

Last week’s announcement that Gravitational Waves (GW) have been detected for the first time—as a result of the merger of two black holes—is huge news. But now a Gamma Ray Burst (GRB) originating from the same place, and that arrived at Earth 0.4 seconds after the GW, is making news. Isolated black holes aren’t supposed to create GRB’s; they need to be near a large amount of matter to do that.

NASA’s Fermi telescope detected the GRB, coming from the same point as the GW, a mere 0.4 seconds after the waves arrived. Though we can’t be absolutely certain that the two phenomena are from the same black hole merger, the Fermi team calculates the odds of that being a coincidence at only 0.0022%. That’s a pretty solid correlation.

So what’s going on here? To back up a little, let’s look at what we thought was happening when LIGO detected gravitational waves.

Our understanding was that the two black holes orbited each other for a long time. As they did so, their massive gravity would have cleared the area around them of matter. By they time they finished circling each other and merged, they would have been isolated in space. But now that a GRB has been detected, we need some way to account for it. We need more matter to be present.

According to Abraham Loeb, of Harvard University, the missing piece of this puzzle is a massive star—itself the result of a binary star system combining into one—a few hundred times larger than the Sun, that spawned two black holes. A star this size would form a black hole when it exhausted its fuel and collapsed. But why would there be two black holes?

Again, according to Loeb, if the star was rotating at a high enough rate—just below its break up frequency—the star could actually form two collapsing cores in a dumbbell configuration, and hence two black holes. But now these two black holes would not be isolated in space, they would actually be inside a massive star. Or what was left of one. The remnants of the massive star is the missing matter.

When the black holes joined together, an outflow would be generated, which would produce the GRB.  Or else the GRB came “from a jet originating out of the accretion disk of residual debris around the BH remnant,” according to Loeb’s paper. So why the 0.4 s delay? This is the time it took the GRB to cross the star, relative to the gravitational waves.

It sounds like a nice tidy explanation. But, as Loeb notes, there are some problems with it. The main question is, why was the GRB so weak, or dim? Loeb’s paper says that “observed GRB may be just one spike in a longer and weaker transient below the GBM detection threshold.”

But was the GRB really weak? Or was it even real? The European Space Agency has their own gamma ray detecting spacecraft, called Integral. Integral was not able to confirm the GRB signal, and according to this paper, the gamma ray signal was not real after all.

As they say in show business, “Stay tuned.”




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12 Responses

  1. btraymd says

    There are some very basic problems with this “gravity wave detection” pronouncement. First, no one has adequately described the exact nature of gravity. It is a force with a source that has not been identified. So how can it be determined that it exists in wave form? What was actually detected and does it shed light on the fundamental nature of gravity?
    Secondly and of great importance is the very concept of a “black hole” as put forth by the “standard model”. There are some growing problems with this model. Recent radio telescope data seems to contradict the model or at least confirms data that the model cannot explain. First of all we now know that “black holes” are neither black nor holes. They have been documented to emit massive amounts of electromagnetic radiation (mainly gamma) and have recently been found to emit multiple plasma jets as well as light. Also, a significant finding made recently is also being totally brushed aside…these structures are surrounded by massive magnetic fields. Magnetic fields are only found in the presence of electric current. This is strong evidence that these “black holes” ( let’s use a useful term and call them “galactic centers”) are primarily electromagnetic phenomenon. If this is the case, then there is one rational explanation for their structure…..a massive, rapidly rotating plasmoid. This model would account for all recent findings and would not require the laws of physics to break down. We should not overlook the fact that the “singularity” at the center of a “black hole” as well as the incredible density does require us to abandon all known laws of physics and chemistry. The electromagnetic model does not require this leap of faith.
    It is highly unlikely that gravity could account for the massive forces observed in these galactic centers. It just doesn’t make sense. Electromagnetic forces are 10 to the 39th times more powerful than gravity and can easily account for galaxy formation without the need for dark matter or “black holes”. This may be a prime case for the application of Ocam”s Razor. In fact, Anthony Peratt at Los Alamos demonstrated the formation of spiral galaxies using only electric current, magnetic fields and plasma. There was no need for unseen dark matter or the breakdown of the laws of physics.
    I find it to be more than coincidental that our sun (stars) have a surface consisting of plasma and massive magnetic fields. The most recent findings from the IBEX mission were published in a series of 14 papers in the October 2015 Astrophysical Journal Supplement. They documented massive interstellar and intergalactic currents of helium flowing into and out of the sun. Other recent NASA missions have documented that massive magnetic fields surround not only stars but entire galaxies as well.
    Without belaboring the point any further, suffice it to say that the finding of gamma ray emission by the LIGO should surprise only those that view gravity as the driving force for star and galaxy formation. Looking at the entire body of evidence recently acquired by the latest radio telescope findings it should have been expected.
    This is the problem with the “standard model”. It has no predictive value. The recent documentation of “star nurseries” forming along “filaments” was also perplexing to cosmologists. This finding was predicted by the electromagnetic model. Donald Scott presented the mechanism for this at the 2009 NASA sponsored Goddard Colloquim on Engineering. He clearly enunciated the principles of electrical engineering responsible for star formation, especially the massive accretion forces that occur at a “Z pinch”.
    But what about the exact nature of gravity? The best explanation I have seen is by Wal Thornhill and titled “The Long Road to Understanding Gravity”. He makes a solid and scientifically sound case that gravity is actually an electromagnetic phenomenon, albeit a relatively weak one. There should be extensive research performed to evaluate this model.
    I realize that some of the concepts I have mentioned flow directly against commonly accepted trends of thought. But they are being backed up by the latest data and at least deserve a thorough evaluation. For those heavily invested in the “standard model” I’m sure they will be dismissed without a second thought. That is because cosmology today has become a religion where only belief is required to establish fact. The scientific triad of observation, theory and experimental proof has been discarded in favor of mathematical models. As such, it is a house of cards waiting to fall as advances in radio astronomy find one contradiction after another resulting in it’s eventual invalidation.

    • Member

      Using quotation marks like that is not only grammatically incorrect, it’s a sign of belittling something which means you need all the help you can get demeaning it. And considering the dearth of them flying around your little diatribe, you’re really desperate to appear correct. You’re wrong. It happened and exactly how it was predicted to look 101 years ago. GWD = lights out for the electric universe, though that’s actually been the case for a few decades now for the enormous percent of us not weasily fooled by hucksters. (BTW, using lower case letters like I did just there is another form of belittling. Only I’m doing it to because it’s fun)

      “This enormous “””””discovery””””” and the thousands upon thousands of “””””scientists””””” who agree that it’s “”””””true””””” MUST be incorrect because it goes against what I believe Here, I’ll prove it by once again regurgitating my well memorized and ridiculously lengthy pat response one. more. time….”!

      ~ BTRAYMD

      • redmudislander says

        ” . . . considering the dearth of them flying around . . . ”

        Scratch “dearth”, and insert “plenitude”, and you’ll make a better rebuttal.

        Look them up first. (if necessary)

    • mewo says

      Do you really not understand that the gamma rays and jets from a black hole actually originate from the matter in the accretion disk orbiting it? I explained this to you last time you slammed us with your copy-pasted wall of idiotic text. Weren’t you paying attention?

      It’s funny that you would accuse scientists of rejecting observation, theory, and experiment. It’s almost as though you don’t know what LIGO is and does. But your complete lack of comprehension of anything is well known around here. In previous discussions we’ve found out that you’re actually profoundly ignorant of electric and magnetic phenomena. For instance, you did not understand such high school basics as the fact that a rotating charged object induces a magnetic field. You’ve also shown yourself hazy on the distinction between NASA and ESA, and asserted that a space probe planned since the late 90s was actually a panicked response to a crackpot speech held in 2009. You constantly make authoritative-sounding statements about matters that you plainly don’t understand at all. You’re a time-wasting crackpot spammer. Go away.

  2. Aetzbar says

    Secrets of the Universe
    In the beginning was infinite geometric space. This space became filled with Static Time at absolute rest and absolute cold. Static time is strictly quantitative, and does not differentiate between past, present and future. Being quantifiable and measurable, static time is a scientific concept. Static time of 0.0033 microseconds per meter will be measured regardless of the direction chosen.
    Stars move through static time, which does not disrupt their motion. Static time exists but is imperceptible. Static time is the deepest secret of the universe.
    Static time fills all infinite space, eliminating the possibility of a vacuum. Static Time Waves (STW) travel through static time. The speed of STW is 300,000 km/second.
    Aetzbar in amazon
    The Newtonian universe is based on matter and force.
    The Einsteinian universe is based on matter and energy.
    The Aetzbarian universe is based on static time and energy.
    There is no gravity, and there is no gravity waves.
    There is Static Time , and there is Static Time Waves. (STW)
    There is a particles of Static Time.
    Static Time is real and measured.
    Everyone knows the Dynamic Time.
    It is time to recognize the Static Time.

  3. Steven says

    Has anyone ever modeled a spinning star breaking into two cores before?

    Might this be relevant to Eta Carinae which is said to be near it’s limit of spin rate?

  4. redmudislander says

    @ Jeffery B.
    Scratch “dearth”, and insert “plenitude” and you’ll have a better argument.
    Look them up.

  5. Dan says

    I have a very naive question. Isn’t it possible that there is some body blocking the path of gamma rays to us but neutrinos go through it just as they always like to do?

    • Potatoswatter says

      Yes, neutrino bursts are observed before the visible light of supernovas. However, black hole mergers don’t produce neutrinos as far as I know. Neutrinos result from nuclear reactions.

      Other events might produce both. It would be exciting to triangulate a position from both non-EM observations, then point a telescope and watch it happen!

      Also, gravitational waves (as far as I know) travel at exactly the speed of light, but neutrinos are merely relativistic. Looking at the delay between the GW and neutrino waveforms could help estimate neutrino mass.

  6. Zoutsteen says

    I don’t mind being skeptical about the GW
    Or being more skeptical with this news.

    But that is more because LIGO has tried a long time to observe a signal
    And the scientific papers it produced so far, belong more in the realm of hypothetical alternatives.

    The silliest I can think of is the planar alignment of the 2 BH’s vs GRB vs the observed GW & GRB

Comments are closed.