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Tag archives: multimessenger astronomy

A very LIGO Christmas

A special Physics World comic for Christmas 2017

Light speed: LIGO gets a surprise signal (click to expand)


By Tushna Commissariat

Every December, we like to do something special for you, dear readers, as the year draws to an end. As you are undoubtedly aware, some of the most exciting news in physics this year came from the world of gravitational-wave research and multimessenger astronomy, in the first ever observation of a neutron-star merger. Indeed, this global discovery bagged our 2017 Breakthrough of the Year award, while the pioneers of gravitational-wave astronomy won this year’s Nobel prize in physics.


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Neutron star merger as it happened

All around the world: observatories that looked-out for GW170817 (Courtesy: LIGO-Virgo)

All around the world: observatories that saw GW170817 (Courtesy: LIGO-Virgo)

By Hamish Johnston

At 12:41:20 UTC on 17 August, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope sent a notice to the astronomy community saying that it had detected a gamma-ray burst. Normally such an event wouldn’t raise much fuss – but this time things would be very different.

Back on Earth, scientists working on the LIGO-Virgo gravitational wave detectors were busy analysing a signal that had arrived about 2 s before the gamma-ray burst and looked very much like the merger of two neutron stars. Such a cataclysmic event is expected to give off copious amounts of electromagnetic radiation including an initial burst of gamma rays.


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