Algorithms Aid Search for Source of Spacetime Rumbles

A new, automated telescope search program in Arizona called SAGUARO hopes to catch neutron stars in the act of colliding

3 min read
The University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey telescope, to which astronomers have added an automated search system to rapidly respond to gravitational wave detections from the LIGO and VIRGO observatories in the U.S. and Italy.
The University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey telescope, to which astronomers have added an automated search system to rapidly respond to gravitational wave detections from the LIGO and VIRGO observatories in the United States and Italy.
Photo: Catalina Sky Survey

One night last week around 7 p.m., Michael Lundquist was at his home in Tucson, Arizona when his cellphone rang. He knew from the ringtone that it was a robocall. So he took it immediately. He lives for moments like this.

“A LIGO/VIRGO alert has been received,” the automated voice told him (generated by a Python script that he’d written). The LIGO gravitational wave detector in Louisiana and Washington state had just seconds earlier picked up a ripple in spacetime. Lundquist opened his email app to see the details of LIGO’s gravitational wave alert.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Top Tech 2022: A Special Report

Preview two dozen exciting technical developments that are in the pipeline for the coming year

1 min read
Photo of the lower part of a rocket in an engineering bay.

NASA’s Space Launch System will carry Orion to the moon.

Frank Michaux/NASA

At the start of each year, IEEE Spectrum attempts to predict the future. It can be tricky, but we do our best, filling the January issue with a couple of dozen reports, short and long, about developments the editors expect to make news in the coming year.

This isn’t hard to do when the project has been in the works for a long time and is progressing on schedule—the coming first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, for example. For other stories, we must go farther out on a limb. A case in point: the description of a hardware wallet for Bitcoin that the company formerly known as Square (which recently changed its name to Block) is developing but won’t officially comment on. One thing we can predict with confidence, though, is that Spectrum readers, familiar with the vicissitudes of technical development work, will understand if some of these projects don’t, in fact, pan out. That’s still okay.

Engineering, like life, is as much about the journey as the destination.

See all stories from our Top Tech 2022 Special Report

Keep Reading ↓Show less