Chinese scientists have launched two satellites into orbit that track gravitational waves. Advanced devices can scan all areas of available space.
The Chinese space agency has launched two satellites that will form a panoramic telescope to observe gravitational waves’ electromagnetic analogs.
Two small GECAM satellites, 130 centimeters high and weighing 150 kilograms, are now in identical 600-kilometer orbits, but on opposite sides of the Earth. From these places, they will observe bursts of gamma rays that arise due to the merger of ultradense objects, events that generate gravitational waves, and pulsations in space-time.
In 2017, astronomers already intercepted powerful waves when a pair of neutron stars, dead cores leftover from supernova explosions, merged and spewed debris that glowed at multiple wavelengths. It is believed that the merger of a neutron star and a black hole also generates both light and gravitational waves.
Two satellites in pair can track the entire sky, tracking the gamma ray bursts’ source at a specific location. Existing wave-tracking observatories only have a partial view of the sky and are sometimes blocked by the Earth, the researchers note.
These devices are also optimized to capture the longer, high-energy GRBs that result from falling massive stars. The GECAM’s observation energy range extends to 6 keV, which is lower than its counterparts, but the Chinese device may be useful in capturing softer bursts of gamma rays.