Alas, unlike NASCAR, there is not likely to be any spectacular stellar collisions. In the early part of galactic formation, particles and larger bodies where crashing into each other all the time. But now, as the universe has matured slightly, the prospects of these types of collisions is rare. This is bad news for scientists. Stars, many times larger than the Sun, usually end their lives in one of two ways:
1) their material can is blown into space; or
2) they can collapse under their own gravity into a black hole.
Scientists were hoping to observe gravitational waves from two super massive stars orbiting each other. The theory was that objects orbiting in tight binary systems where one or both stars are either a neutron star or a black hole would lose their energy over time. This energy loss would lead to the orbits of the objects decaying and finally a collision.
It was at this point that there may be an observable gamma-ray burst, and the explosion should also be accompanied by the emission of gravitational waves. However, up to now we have failed to observe these waves. Current detectors can only “see” the collision of typical black holes in the local Universe. The collision of black holes produced by super massive stars would produce gravitational waves strong enough to be detected.
Sadly, the orbits of super massive objects are so far apart that it would be at least ten billion years, and most likely longer, for the objects to collide. So scientists would have to wait around about the same amount of time as the universe has been in existence to observe gravitational waves from this source.
Scientists will have to hope that the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), a proposed space mission concept designed to detect and accurately measure gravitational waves from astronomical sources, gets enough funding to help them out.
– Ex astris, scientia –
I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +