Full AAO Media Release, published at 01:00am Sydney time, 17 October 2017, that I coordinated.
For the first time, astronomers have observed the afterglow of an event that was also detected in gravitational waves. The object, dubbed AT2017gfo, was a pair of in-spiralling neutron stars in a galaxy 130 million light years away. The death spiral was detected in gravitational waves, and the resulting explosion was followed by over 50 observatories world wide, including the AAO and other observatories here in Australia.
On August 17, the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), based in the United States, detected a new gravitational wave event, called GW170817.
GW170817 is the fifth source of gravitational waves ever recorded. The first one was discovered in September 2015, for which three founding members of the LIGO collaboration were awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics.
The GW170817 data are consistent with the merging of two neutron stars and are unlike the four previous events, which were merging black holes.
Artist’s illustration of two merging neutron stars. The narrow beams represent the gamma-ray burst while the rippling space-time grid indicates the gravitational waves that characterize the merger. Swirling clouds of material ejected from the merging stars ...