Illuminating Gravitational Waves

Date: 
Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - 3:30pm PST
Speaker: 
Mansi Kasliwal
Affiliation: 
CalTech
Location: 
N232 R103
Event Type: 
Colloquium

On August 17 2017, for the first time, an electromagnetic counterpart to gravitational waves was detected. Two neutron stars merged and lit up the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from gamma-rays to the radio. The infrared signature vividly demonstrates that neutron star mergers are indeed the long-sought production sites that forge heavy elements by r-process nucleosynthesis. The weak gamma-rays are dissimilar to classical short gamma-ray bursts with ultra-relativistic jets.Instead, by synthesizing a panchromatic dataset, we suggest that break-out of a wide-angle, mildly-relativistic cocoon engulfing the jet elegantly explains the low-luminosity gamma-rays, the high-luminosity ultraviolet-optical-infrared and the delayed radio/X-ray emission. I conclude with the promise of a literally bright and loud future, thanks to even more sensitive survey telescopes and gravitational wave interferometers.

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