UWM Physicists Part of Neutron Star Discovery

Update: The official UWM report has covered this news – click here to read more about the contributions of the people here at UWM who contributed. The story also contains commentary by the department’s own Patrick Brady, David Kaplan, and Jolien Creighton.

On the morning of October 16th, 2017, LIGO announced that they have successfully detected gravity waves coming from the collision of two neutron stars. The gravitational signal, named GW170817, was first detected on Aug. 17 at 8:41 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time; the detection was made by the two identical LIGO detectors, located in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana. The information provided by the third detector, Virgo, situated near Pisa, Italy, enabled an improvement in localizing the cosmic event.

Light and other energy from the collision has been observed, marking the first time that both gravitational waves and light have been observed from the same cosmic event.

The observations have given astronomers an unprecedented opportunity to probe a collision of two neutron stars. For example, observations made by the U.S. Gemini Observatory, the European Very Large Telescope, and the Hubble Space Telescope reveal signatures of recently synthesized material, including gold and platinum, solving a decades-long mystery of where about half of all elements heavier than iron are produced.

The LIGO-Virgo results are published today in the journal Physical Review Letters; additional papers from the LIGO and Virgo collaborations and the astronomical community have been either submitted or accepted for publication in various journals.

Click here to see the full press release at the LIGO website.