Artist's impression of the binary neutron star merger producing GW190425
Original Published Date: 
Thursday, January 9, 2020

Full article issued by The University of Western Australia.

ARC-supported scientists at The University of Western Australia (UWA) have contributed to a new study revealing a possible collision of two neutron stars 3.4 times heavier than the sun.

The gravitational-wave observatory network, including the National Science Foundation's LIGO and the European Virgo detectors, picked up what appeared to be gravitational ripples from a collision of two neutron stars on 25 April 2019, the second time this type of cosmic event has ever been detected.   

Neutron stars are the remnants of dead stars that exploded. When two neutron stars spiral together, they undergo a violent merger that sends gravitational waves shuddering through the fabric of space and time. 

UWA and ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) recipient, Post-Doctoral Fellow Dr Eric Howell said the detection is a significant achievement. 

"Unlike the first detection of a binary neutron star in 2017, no associated light was observed despite extensive follow-up efforts. This was not surprising as this event was at much greater distance and not well localised in the sky, both factors making it highly challenging for space and ground based telescopes," Dr Howell said.

UWA researchers Professor Linqing Wen and Research Fellow Qi Chu have been operating one of the five online pipelines to search for gravitational waves in real time, and generate open public alerts for prompt follow up observations from other telescopes. The pipeline developed at UWA, named SPIIR, independently identified this new binary neutron star event, and helped confirm the discovery. The SPIIR effort is supported in part by the ARC through the establishment of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav).

Photo credit: 

Artist's impression of the binary neutron star merger producing GW190425. Credit: National Science Foundation/LIGO/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet.