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NASA Missions Catch First Light from a Gravitational-Wave Event

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Tue Oct 17, 2017 3:32 pm

For the first time, NASA scientists have detected light tied to a gravitational-wave event, thanks to two merging neutron stars in the galaxy NGC 4993, located about 130 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Hydra.

Shortly after 8:41 a.m. EDT on Aug. 17, NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope picked up a pulse of high-energy light from a powerful explosion, which was immediately reported to astronomers around the globe as a short gamma-ray burst. The scientists at the National Science Foundation’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves dubbed GW170817 from a pair of smashing stars tied to the gamma-ray burst, encouraging astronomers to look for the aftermath of the explosion. Shortly thereafter, the burst was detected as part of a follow-up analysis by ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) INTEGRAL satellite.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Tue Oct 17, 2017 3:33 pm

Image
Credits: NASA/Swift

Swift’s Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope imaged the kilonova produced by merging neutron stars in the galaxy NGC 4993 (box) on Aug. 18, 2017, about 15 hours after gravitational waves and the gamma-ray burst were detected. The source was unexpectedly bright in ultraviolet light. It faded rapidly and was undetectable in UV when Swift looked again on Aug. 29. This false-color composite combines images taken through three ultraviolet filters. Inset: Magnified views of the galaxy.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Tue Oct 17, 2017 3:34 pm



Doomed neutron stars whirl toward their demise in this animation. Gravitational waves (pale arcs) bleed away orbital energy, causing the stars to move closer together and merge. As the stars collide, some of the debris blasts away in particle jets moving at nearly the speed of light, producing a brief burst of gamma rays (magenta). In addition to the ultra-fast jets powering the gamma-rays, the merger also generates slower moving debris. An outflow driven by accretion onto the merger remnant emits rapidly fading ultraviolet light (violet).

A dense cloud of hot debris stripped from the neutron stars just before the collision produces visible and infrared light (blue-white through red). The UV, optical and near-infrared glow is collectively referred to as a kilonova. Later, once the remnants of the jet directed toward us had expanded into our line of sight, X-rays (blue) were detected. This animation represents phenomena observed up to nine days after GW170817.

 

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