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UVI Etelman Observatory Participated in the Optical Observations

For the first time, scientists have directly detected gravitational waves — ripples in space and time — in addition to light from the spectacular collision of two neutron stars. This marks the first time in history that a cosmic event has been viewed in both gravitational waves and light.

The discovery was made using the U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), the Europe-based Virgo detector, and some 70 ground- and space-based observatories, including UVI's Etelman Observatory.

A neutron star is the corpse of an ancient giant star, and is about 20 kilometers, or 12 miles, in diameter (i.e. roughly the size of the island of St Thomas). Neutron stars are composed exclusively of very closely packed neutrons which makes their density almost unimaginably large. Comparing neutron stars to normal matter, a spoonful of neutron star “stuff” would weigh more than the largest cruise ships seen in the Virgin Islands.

As these neutron stars spiraled together, they emitted gravitational waves that were detectable for about 100 seconds. When they collided, a flash of light in the form of gamma rays was emitted and seen on Earth about two seconds after the gravitational waves. In the days and weeks following the collision, other forms of light (or electromagnetic radiation) including X-ray, ultraviolet, optical, infrared, and radio waves were detected.

More information is available in a news release on the Media Section of the UVI website –http://www.uvi.edu/ - and from this direct link.