LIGO Detects a Kilonova for the First Time

LIGO (The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) detections of gravitational waves were paired with a gamma ray burst, which led to the first-ever detection of a binary neutron star collision (a Kilonova).

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.

An infographic showing the sequence of events associated with GW170817/GRB170817A. Credit: C. Evans/K. Jani/Georgia Tech

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.

Read More: The Wire

New York Times

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