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Radio observations reveal neutron-star merger phenomena

Three months of observations with the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) have allowed astronomers to zero in on the most likely explanation for what happened in the aftermath of the violent collision of a pair of neutron stars in a galaxy 130 million light-years from Earth. What they learned means that astronomers will be able to see and study many more such collisions. On Aug. 17, 2017, the LIGO and VIRGO gravitational-wave observatories combined to locate the faint ripples in space-time caused by the merger of two superdense neutron stars. It was the first confirmed detection of such a merger and only the fifth direct detection ever of gravitational waves, predicted more than a century ago by Albert Einstein. The gravitational waves were followed by outbursts of gamma rays, X-rays and visible light from the event. The VLA detected the first radio waves coming from the event on Sept. 2. This was the first time any astronomical object had been seen with both gravitational waves and electromagnetic waves. The observed measurements are helping the astronomers figure out the sequence of events triggered by the collision of the neutron stars.

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