Binary Neutron Star Merger GW170817: A Multi-sensory Experience of the Universe
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August 17, 2017, is a milestone date for astrophysics. For the first time, the LIGO and Virgo gravitational-wave observatories detected signals from the collision of two neutron stars. The powerful event shook space-time and produced a fireball of light and radiation from the formation of heavy elements. Satellites and observatories all around the world observed the light produced by this event. For the first time, we have measured gravitational waves and light produced in the same astrophysical event. What this discovery means for astrophysics is equivalent to the difference between looking at a black-and-white photo and watching a 3-D IMAX movie! The combined information of gravitational waves and light is greater than the sum of its parts. The combination allows us to learn new things about physics, the universe, and what we are made of – and perhaps explain mysteries that continue to emerge. No one has ever been able to do this before! The historic detection of a cataclysmic celestial collision using signals from multiple messengers signals the era of multi-messenger astrophysics. Discussing the milestone and its implications are School of Physics Professors Laura Cadonati, Nepomuk Otte, and Ignacio Taboada. School of Physics Chair and Professor Pablo Laguna will moderate the discussion. The panel discussion is part of the College of Sciences' Frontiers in Science Lecture Series.