School Colloquia Series - Michael Ashley - Kilonovae, gamma-ray bursts, neutron star mergers, and why you should stay well away from a magnetar
Tuesday 31st October 2017
Old Main Building, Room 150
Michael Ashley, School of Physics, UNSW
130 million years ago, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, two neutron stars coalesced to form a black hole. On 17 August 2017 the gravitational waves from this event reached our planet and were detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. 1.7 seconds later, gamma-rays were detected by Earth-orbiting satellites. 11 hours later the optical signal had been pin-pointed to a relatively nearby galaxy. Two months later, in their 16 October issues, Science published 8 articles about the discovery and Nature had 11.
This is the first time that an electromagnetic signal has been seen from a gravitational wave event, and is momentously important. For example, it appears that up to 100 Earth-masses of gold may have been produced almost instantly, and the rate of such mergers may explain the abundance of all so-called r-process elements on Earth.
My research group had a small part to play, making some of the first optical observations of the event from our telescope in Antarctica.