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Gravitational Waves Detected from Two Stars Colliding

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Australian astronomers have confirmed the first-ever detection of gravitational waves produced by the collision of two neutron stars about 130 million light-years away in galaxy NGC 4993.

The explosion was detected by NASA’s Fermi gamma ray telescope about 2 seconds after the gravitational wave was detected by the US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) and Europe-based Virgo Collaboration.

Visible light and gamma-ray emissions allowed astronomers to pinpoint the location of the collision. The first follow-up detection was optical about 11 hours after the event, and was observed by a number of groups worldwide. X-ray emissions were detected 9 days later and radio waves after 15 days.

A/Prof Tara Murphy of The University of Sydney, who led the radio astronomy follow-up in Australia, said she was in the United States when the gravitational wave discovery was announced on LIGO’s private email list. “We immediately rang our team in Australia and told them to get onto the CSIRO telescope as soon as possible, then started planning our observations,” she said. “We were lucky in a sense in that it was perfect timing but you have to be at the top of your game to play in this space. It is intense, time-critical science.”

The team used CSIRO’s Australia Telescope Compact Array to monitor the gravitational wave event for more...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.