Two major announcements are made across the universe this week. Here’s what we know so far: ScienceAlert

It’s going to be a big week for space and physics news as two major universe-themed press conferences are announced for Thursday, June 29th.

They may share a common date, but the two are very different announcements and, as far as we can tell, very different discoveries being shared with the public.

Speculations aside, both appear to be advances that could change our basic understanding of how the universe works, and it’s safe to say we’re pretty excited here at ScienceAlert.

Let’s dive in and get acquainted with what we know so far.

Discovery of the gravitational wave

As we reported earlier this week, the North American Nanohertz Gravitational Wave Observatory (NANOGrav) is coordinating a global announcement on Thursday, June 29, 2023 at 1:00 p.m. EDT (1700 UTC).

The update will shed light on research being conducted by the International Pulsar Timing Array (IPTA) – a global consortium of gravitational wave detectors: NANOGrav of North America; the European Pulsar Timing Array; the Indian Pulsar Timing Array Project; and Australia’s Parkes Pulsar Timing Array.

So far, they haven’t released much information about what the announcement will be about, but based on the groups involved, we can speculate that it’s about the gravitational-wave background, or GWB. Often referred to as the background totals of the universe.

Discovering this background hum would be a big deal as it would revolutionize our understanding of the earliest days of the universe.

“For example, electromagnetic radiation only provides a picture of the universe at the time of the last scattering (about 400,000 years after the Big Bang). However, gravitational waves can give us information until the onset of inflation.” , only ∼10-32 Seconds after the Big Bang,” theoretical physicist Susan Scott of the Australian National University and ARC Center of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery told ScienceAlert’s senior journalist Michelle Starr.

It is an incredible challenge to filter out this faint background hum from all the other “noises” in the universe. But one of the most promising ways to find the GWB is using pulsar timing arrays.

Pulsars are a type of neutron star, the remnants of once-massive stars that died in a spectacular supernova, leaving only a dense core.

These spinning stars act like cosmic beacons, their radio beams sweeping across the Earth at precise intervals.

Gravitational waves should theoretically lead to tiny irregularities in the timing of these pulsar flashes.

One pulsar alone wouldn’t signal much, but a large number of pulsars, all with similar inconsistencies, could represent the kind of gravitational waves we’d expect from the mass black hole merger in the early Universe, Michelle Starr explains.

This is exactly what IPTA is looking for – and perhaps what it has found.

We’ll have to wait until Thursday to find out. But rest assured we’ll let you know as soon as we know more.

In the meantime, stay here and wait for her live stream.

Neutrino Discovery

Thursday’s second announcement, mistakenly linked to the NANOGrav announcement on social media, comes from the IceCube neutrino observatory, built deep in the Antarctic ice.

This particle detector looks for neutrinos; Subatomic particles that are extremely difficult to detect due to their lack of charge and practically nonexistent mass.

This spooky ability to flow en masse and unnoticed through our world has earned neutrinos the nickname “ghost particles”. This also makes them ideal objects for studying distant cosmic events, as their path and properties remain relatively unchanged from their surroundings during their flight through space.

Neutrinos are emitted as part of the beta decay process, which converts neutrons into protons – making them one of the most abundant subatomic particles in the universe tens of billions hitting your fingernail every second without you ever realizing it.

We have previously detected neutrinos distant quasars, particle acceleratorand even our own sun. They’re even a candidate for the mysterious material known as dark matter.

We don’t know much about next Thursday’s announcement, other than that it will definitely involve some kind of fascinating neutrino detection – and will have very little to do with gravitational waves!

The IceCube announcement will be livestreamed on Thursday, June 29, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 UTC).

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We will be there live with you and report on the results as soon as they are available!

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