When Stars Collide

by wjw on October 16, 2017

Want to see some “astrophysical ecstasy?”  I think you do.

Back in August, Caltech’s Laser Interferometer Gravity-wave Observatory (LIGO) detected a massive disturbance in the Force powerful ruction in space-time, the result of two neutron stars colliding a zillion and a half years ago, off in a galaxy far, far away.  LIGO had detected collisions before, but these were of black holes, so there was nothing to look at.  Neutron stars are visible, so the vast explosion was confirmed within hours by optical telescopes, as well as gamma-ray detectors and radio telescopes.

The video will show you what happened, for all its poetastical language of stars “locked in an ever-tightening dance of doom” leading to “astrophysical ecstasy.”  (I’m guessing the ecstasy was all on the part of the observers.)

The result was two Nobel prizes for Caltech (Kip Thorne and Barry Barish), plus another for Rainer Weiss of MIT.

(Frankly I’d assumed Kip Thorne had got his Nobel ages ago, but I guess the Swedish Academy took a while to catch up to him.)

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