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What are Gravitational Waves?

  • These waves are ‘ripples’ in space-time caused by some of the most violent and energetic processes in the Universe.
  • The strongest gravitational waves are produced by catastrophic events such as colliding black holes, the collapse of stellar cores (supernovae), coalescing neutron stars or white dwarf stars, the slightly wobbly rotation of neutron stars that are not perfect spheres, and possibly even the remnants of gravitational radiation created by the birth of the Universe itself.

Black Holes– A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying.

Supernova- A supernova is the explosion of a star. It is the largest explosion that takes place in space. A supernova happens where there is a change in the core, or center, of a star. A change can occur in two different ways, with both resulting in a supernova.

Neutron stars

  • Neutron stars comprise one of the possible evolutionary end-points of high mass stars.
  • Once the core of the star has completely burned to iron, energy production stops and the core rapidly collapses, squeezing electrons and protons together to form neutrons and neutrinos.
  • A star supported by neutron degeneracy pressure is known as a ‘neutron star’, which may be seen as a pulsar if its magnetic field is favourably aligned with its spin axis.
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October 2022