"Rattle and Shine: Joint Detection of Gravitational Waves and Light from the Binary Neutron Star Merger GW170817"

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 4:15pm
428 Pupin Hall

Edo Berger

Harvard University

"Rattle and Shine: Joint Detection of Gravitational Waves and Light from the Binary Neutron Star Merger GW170817"

The much-anticipated joint detection of gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation was achieved for the first time on August 17, 2017, for the binary neutron star merger GW170817.  This event was detected by Advanced LIGO/Virgo, gamma-ray satellites, and dozens of telescopes on the ground and in space spanning from radio to X-rays.  In this talk I will describe the exciting discovery of the optical counterpart, which in turn led to several detailed studies across the electromagnetic spectrum.  The results of the observations carried out by our team include the first detailed study of a "kilonova", an optical/infrared counterpart powered by the radioactive decay of r-process nuclei synthesized in the merger, as well as the detection of an off-axis jet powering radio and X-ray emission.  These results provide the first direct evidence that neutron star mergers are the dominant site for the r-process and are the progenitors of short GRBs.  I will also describe how studies of the host galaxy shed light on the merger timescale, and describe initial constraints on the Hubble Constant from the combined GW and EM detection.   

About the speaker

Edo Berger is a Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University.  His group's research covers a wide range of explosive and eruptive astrophysical phenomena, including gamma-ray bursts, tidal disruption events, super-luminous supernovae, and other optical transients (from the Pan-STARRS project and elsewhere), as well as magnetic activity in sub-stellar objects.  They use observations across the electromagnetic spectrum - from radio to γ-rays - utilizing observatories around the world and in space.
Previously, Edo was a joint Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow (2004-2007) and Carnegie-Princeton Postdoctoral Fellow (2004-2008) at the Carnegie Observatories and Princeton University.
Edo received a PhD in Astrophysics from Caltech in 2004, with a thesis focused on multi-wavelength studies of gamma-ray bursts, their host galaxies, and type Ib/c core-collapse supernovae.
Since 2013 he have also been serving as the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the department of astronomy.