For the first time ever, Astrophysicists have found definitive evidence of two neutron stars colliding and releasing a deadly gamma-ray burst. The light from this burst arrived almost simultaneously with gravitational waves unleashed by the collision.
According to a press release circulated by the collaboration, “On August 17, LIGO’s real-time data analysis software caught a strong signal of gravitational waves from space in one of the two LIGO detectors.
At nearly the same time, the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor on NASA’s Fermi space telescope had detected a burst of gamma rays.”
This discovery is further evidence that gravitational waves travel at the speed of light – a prediction that Albert Einstein made over a 100 years ago.
Moreover, follow-up observations in the days following the first offered proof that over half the elements heavier than iron are created in such cataclysmic events in the universe.
The explosion that follows a neutron star merger is called a kilonova, and astronomers have finally observed after it was predicted nearly three decades ago.
A kilonova is a radioactive expulsion of heavy metals like selenium, ruthenium, gold and platinum, flung out into space at nearly 20% the speed of light.