Physics Spotlight  
Members of MIT's panel on the LIGO observation of a merger of neutron stars, (left to right) Anna Frebel, Salvatore Vitale, Nergis Mavalvala, Erik Katsavounidis, and Matthew Evans, pose for a photo at the Oct. 16 event.

Photo: Jake Belcher Members of MIT's panel on the LIGO observation of a merger of neutron stars, (left to right) Anna Frebel, Salvatore Vitale, Nergis Mavalvala, Erik Katsavounidis, and Matthew Evans, pose for a photo at the Oct. 16 event.
Photo: Jake Belcher

MIT researchers discuss the new "multi-messenger" era of astrophysics research

Mavalvala, Evans, Frebel, Katsavounidis, and Vitale discuss the science behind LIGO's observations of a neutron star collision.

Julia C. Keller | School of Science
October 18, 2017

On Monday, Oct. 16, scientists from the National Science Foundation (NSF), representatives from the Laser Interferoment Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration, and other researchers from ground-based and space-based observatories around the world announced the detection of GW170817 — gravitational waves resulting from the merger of two neutron stars.

This detection was the first correlation between gravitational waves and electromagnetic signals in the form of gamma ray bursts and X-ray, ultraviolet, optical, infrared, and radio waves.

Following the live webcast of the announcement made from the National Press Club in Washington, MIT President L. Rafael Reif introduced Nergis Mavalvala, the Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics — “a LIGO pioneer in her own right” — who began her career as a graduate student of MIT Professor Emeritus Rainer Weiss, the winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics for his work on LIGO. 

Mavalvala led a panel of MIT scientists, including Anna Frebel, Salvatore Vitale, Erik Katsavounidis, and Matthew Evans, in a discussion of the science of the discovery and of its importance in opening up a new field of astronomical discovery.
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