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What Have Gravitational-Wave Detectors Discovered? Find Out Today!

The LIGO project operates two detector sites: one near Hanford in eastern Washington, and another near Livingston, Louisiana (shown here).
The LIGO project operates two detector sites: one near Hanford in eastern Washington, and another near Livingston, Louisiana (shown here). (Image credit: IGO Collaboration)

Mark your calendars: Some big astronomy news is set to drop today (Oct. 16).

At 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) on that day, scientists with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and Virgo collaborations, as well as researchers from a number of other institutions, will hold a news conference at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

"The gathering will begin with an overview of new findings from LIGO, Virgo and partners that span the globe, followed by details from telescopes that work with the LIGO and Virgo collaborations to study extreme events in the cosmos," officials with the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), which is organizing the event, wrote in a media advisory.

The LIGO collaboration famously made the first-ever detection of gravitational waves, the ripples in space-time first predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago. Earlier this month, three of LIGO's founders won the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics for that groundbreaking discovery, which came in September 2015. The LIGO group has also announced three other detections.

The most recent detection, which was announced on Sept. 27, was made jointly by LIGO and the Virgo collaboration, which uses a gravitational-wave detector in Italy.

Gravitational waves are generated by the acceleration of massive objects. All four detections to date have involved merging black holes, but LIGO and Virgo could theoretically detect ripples spawned by other objects and events as well.

The NSF's media advisory doesn't give any solid clues about Monday's announcement. But the nature of the press event makes clear that it will be a big deal. The news conference will consist of two separate panel discussions involving a total of 15 scientists. And NSF Director France Córdova will moderate the first panel. (The NSF funds LIGO, which is operated by the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.)

In addition, related news conferences are taking place at the same time Monday in London and Munich.

What exactly have the LIGO and Virgo teams, and their colleagues, discovered? We'll find out soon enough.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.

Mike Wall
Michael was a science writer for the Idaho National Laboratory and has been an intern at Wired.com, The Salinas Californian newspaper, and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. He has also worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz.