Illuminating Gravitational Waves

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.

Cody Hall, AB 107

Mansi Kasliwal (Caltech)

March 28, 2018
14:00 - 15:00