The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) congratulates the four astronomers honored by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation which awarded them the 2022 New Horizons in Physics Prize. Alessandra Corsi of Texas Tech University; Gregg Hallinan and Mansi Manoj Kasliwal, both of Caltech; and Raffaella Margutti of the University of California, BerkeleyLocated in Berkeley, California and founded in 1868, University of California, Berkeley is a public research university that also goes by UC Berkeley, Berkeley, California, or Cal. It maintains close relationships with three DOE National Laboratories: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.”>University of California, Berkeley, were recognized for “leadership in laying foundations for electromagnetic observations of sources of gravitational wavesGravitational waves are distortions or ripples in the fabric of space and time. They were first detected in 2015 by the Advanced LIGO detectors and are produced by catastrophic events such as colliding black holes, supernovae, or merging neutron stars.”>gravitational waves, and leadership in extracting rich information from the first observed collision of two neutron stars.”
The researchers made landmark observations of the merger of two neutron stars in August of 2017 and the lengthy aftermath of that merger. The event generated gravitational waves that were directly detected by the LIGOThe Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is a large-scale physics experiment and observatory supported by the National Science Foundation and operated by Caltech and MIT. It’s designed to detect cosmic gravitational waves and to develop gravitational-wave observations as an astronomical tool. It’s multi-kilometer-scale gravitational wave detectors use laser interferometry to measure the minute ripples in space-time caused by passing gravitational waves. It consists of two widely separated interferometers within the United States—one in Hanford, Washington and the other in Livingston, Louisiana.”>LIGO and VIRGO gravitational-wave observatories. When the event later was seen emitting gamma rays, X-rays, visible light, and radio waves, it became the first astronomical event ever seen with both gravitational waves and electromagnetic waves.
The prize winners used the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) and Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) to study the aftermath of the merger for months afterward, yielding key information about the nature and consequences of the collision.
“This was a watershed in astrophysics, and NRAO’s radio telescopes were vital tools for unraveling the workings of this exciting event. We are very happy to see our scientific colleagues who made expert use of the VLA and the VLBA in that effort gain this well-deserved recognition,” said NRAO Director Tony Beasley.
“Events such as this neutron starA neutron star is the collapsed core of a large (between 10 and 29 solar masses) star. Neutron stars are the smallest and densest stars known to exist. Though neutron stars typically have a radius on the order of just 10 – 20 kilometers (6 – 12 miles), they can have masses of about 1.3 – 2.5 that of the Sun.”>neutron star merger are at the frontier of physics, where we can gain valuable insights available in no other way. We are proud that the VLA and VLBA contribute to this research, and look forward to providing the vastly improved capabilities of the Next Generation Very Large Array (ngVLA) to work that is so important to our understanding of the Universe,” Beasley added.
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.