By Greg Walz-Chojnacki
It’s fair to say good luck played a role in the prompt discovery of an optical (and radio, X-ray, ultraviolet and infrared) counterpart to the gravitational waves from colliding neutron stars found last August.
But it’s also true that scientists don’t like to lean too hard on good luck, so astronomers have been developing a more systematic way to search for objects detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory.
The of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is a partner in the Zwicky Transient Facility, the latest tool for capturing astronomical observations of short-lived, or transient, phenomena. ZTF recently saw “first light,” taking its first detailed image of the night sky. In February, it will begin a regular program of swiftly scanning the entire sky to search for cosmic explosions, such as novae and supernova. The facility is also well-suited to discovering members of the solar system, principally asteroids and comets.