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Monday, November 4, 2019 at 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Rockefeller Hall, Schwartz Auditorium Cornell University
Joint Physics/Astronomy Colloquium
Prof. Brian Metzger
Monday, November 4, 2019
4:00pm, Schwartz Auditorium, Rockefeller Hall
"The Multi-Messenger Picture of a Neutron Star Merger"
Two summers ago, the LIGO/Virgo gravitational wave observatories detected the first binary neutron star merger event (GW170817), a discovery followed by the most ambitious electromagnetic (EM) follow-up campaign ever conducted. Within 2 seconds of the merger, a weak burst of gamma-rays was discovered by the Fermi and INTEGRAL satellites. Within 11 hours, a bright but rapidly-fading thermal optical counterpart was discovered in the galaxy NGC 4993 at a distance of only 130 Million light years. The properties of the optical transient match remarkably well predictions for “kilonova” emission powered by the radioactive decay of heavy nuclei synthesized in the expanding merger ejecta by rapid neutron capture nucleosynthesis (r-process). The rapid spectral evolution of the kilonova emission to near-infrared wavelengths demonstrates that a portion of the ejecta contains heavy lanthanide nuclei. Two weeks after the merger, rising non-thermal X-ray and radio emission were detected from the position of the optical transient, consistent with delayed synchrotron afterglow radiation from an initially off-axis relativistic jet. Prof. Metzger will describe efforts to create a unified scenario for the range of EM counterparts from GW170817 and their implications for the astrophysical origin of the r-process and the properties of neutron stars (particularly their uncertain radii and maximum mass, which are determined by the equation of state of dense nuclear matter). He will also overview new results from LIGO's ongoing O3 run and preview the upcoming era of multi-messenger astronomy, once Advanced LIGO/Virgo reach design sensitivity and a neutron star merger is detected every few weeks.