LIGO Triumphs Again


Some 130 million years ago, in a galaxy far away, the smoldering cores of two collapsed stars smashed into each other. The resulting explosion sent a burst of gamma rays streaming through space and rippled the very fabric of the universe.

On Aug. 17, those signals reached Earth — and sparked an astronomy revolution.

The distant collision created a “kilonova,” an astronomical marvel that scientists have never seen before. It was the first cosmic event in history to be witnessed via both traditional optical telescopes, which can observe electromagnetic radiation like gamma rays, and gravitational wave detectors, which sense the wrinkles in space-time produced by distant cataclysms. The detection, which involved thousands of researchers working at more than 70 laboratories and telescopes on every continent, heralds a new era in space research known as “multimessenger astrophysics.”

I was part of one of those 70 observatories. It was a very exciting week and represents one of the seminal discoveries in astrophysics. It’s a great day to be an astronomer.

Update: If you want to know what I sound like, here I am, talking to our local NPR station.

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  1. stogy

    Congrats on this, Hal, to you and all of the other scientists involved. It is really exciting news.

    They’ve also found gold in space:

    Hence, my latest get-rich-quick scheme is to slam two neutron stars  into each other (how hard can that be?) and move in to pick up the resulting gold nuggets. My biggest concern is that I will have to do it really really quietly as otherwise others will want to get into the act. I heard the last collision caused the universe to “wobble” – not really stealthy.

    (sorry, I disappeared again – work took me abroad for a couple of months)

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