The European Southern Observatory (ESO) reports that for the first time in history, astronomers have observed gravitational waves and light (electromagnetic radiation) generated by the same cosmic event.
Gravitational waves are predicted by general relativity as well as other theories of gravity. These are changes in the gravitational field that propagate like waves.
It is reported that on August 17, 2017, gravitational-wave and electromagnetic signals were observed for the first time, generated during the merger of two neutron stars. This grandiose space catastrophe was recorded by the LIGO (Laser Interferometric Gravitational-Wave Observatory) in the United States, as well as by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the ESA INTEGRAL astrophysical gamma laboratory (INTErnational Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory).
As a result of the registered cosmic catastrophe, which has long been predicted by theorists and received the name “kilonova”, heavy elements such as gold and platinum are thrown into space. In addition, the strongest evidence to date has been obtained that short-term gamma-ray bursts are also due to mergers of neutron stars.
This fifth registration of gravitational waves has received the designation GW170817. Observations have shown that the source of the gravitational signal is located approximately 130 million light years from Earth on the outskirts of the bright elliptical galaxy NGC 4993. Thus, it is the closest of all detected sources of gravitational waves and one of the closest sources of gamma-ray bursts ever observed.
“It rarely happens that a scientist falls out to witness the beginning of a new era in science. This is one such case!“, Say the researchers.