A Historic Discovery

History is replete with turning points, moments that are looked back on as being pivotal to the flow of events that led to our civilization today. Scientific history is equally full of turning points — defining discoveries that transformed our understanding of the Universe and how it works. On 17 August 2017 the coincident discovery of a binary neutron star merger using both gravitational waves and light initiated one of the most intensive world-wide observing campaigns in history.

Northwestern University has faculty, students, and postdocs in CIERA (Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics) working on both the gravitational waves and electromagnetic discovery teams. Explore some of the exciting moments of this discovery with them.

What is LIGO?

Video

What is LIGO?

CIERA Director and Northwestern LIGO group lead Vicky Kalogera talks about the different types of waves astronomers have used throughout history to study the Universe. Now, we are in the age of “multi-messenger” astronomy. This means that different types of waves from the same cosmic event can be studied.

LIGO-Virgo / Northwestern

  • Video

The Signal

Video

The Signal

CIERA Associate Director and Northwestern LIGO group member Shane Larson describes how different the 2017 Neutron Star Merger (GW170817) signal is from previous signals.

LIGO-Virgo / Northwestern

  • Video

Final Flight of a Neutron Star Pair

Interactive

Final Flight of a Neutron Star Pair

This interactive allows you to investigate possible past lives of the two neutron stars that merged in an event called GW170817 in the galaxy NGC 4993. The pair of stars—a neutron star and a normal star—orbit quietly, until the normal star undergoes a supernova, spawning a second neutron star and “kicking” the system into an elliptical orbit.

LIGO-Virgo / Aaron Geller / Northwestern

  • Visualization