Hubble makes milestone observation of gravitational-wave source

Brittany A. Roston - Oct 16, 2017
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Hubble makes milestone observation of gravitational-wave source

NASA has announced a new milestone observation made possible via Hubble, which spotted light that has been connected to a gravitational-wave event. According to the space agency, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope first detected a high-energy light pulse on August 17. Following this, the National Science Foundation’s LIGO picked up on the gravitational waves from colliding stars that were related to the gamma-ray burst.

Following LIGO’s detection of the waves, the European Space Agency’s own INTEGRAL satellite was able to pick up on the bursts. The events caught researchers attention for multiple reasons, not the least of which being that the gamma-ray burst happened less than 1/10th the distance as any other short bursts. That was when NASA’s Swift mission noted the presence of bright UV emissions.

Adding to the mystery was a long delay before NASA’s equipment was able to detect X-rays from the emission’s afterglow. Talking about that, one Goddard researcher, Eleonora Troja, explained, “We had to wait for nine days too detect it because we viewed it from the side, unlike anything we had seen before.”

Notably, on August 22 the Hubble Space Telescope was able to start picking up the near-IR spectrum from the stars’ collision, revealing both the composition and motion of the resulting — and now expanding — debris. Researchers say the observations fully connected the detected gravitational waves with the object.

Following Hubble’s observations was NASA’s Spitzer mission — it was able to observe the event even after the other telescopes lost sight due to the Sun’s position. By September 30, Spitzer had captured the longest wavelength IR from a kilonova like this. This marks the very first time researchers have managed to detect light and conclusively tie it to a gravitational-wave event.

SOURCE: Hubble Site


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