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Zach Etienne Special Colloquium

"Gravitational Waves, Colliding Neutron Stars, and You"

Gravitational waves---ripples in space and time---were just observed for the first time from colliding neutron stars, and the story is wilder than science fiction. Each of these stars is born from a supernova explosion and is incredibly dense--one teaspoonful of neutron star is as massive as Mt. Everest. In the extreme violence of collision, neutron stars smash into each other at roughly a tenth the speed of light, tearing themselves apart and combining into a single, highly-spinning, super-dense object. What happens next is not fully understood, but thanks to about 70 follow-up observations by traditional telescopes, the end result is now clear: a couple seconds after collision, an intense burst of gamma-rays (short-wavelength light) is emitted, followed by days of glowing radioactive decay from the clumps of super-dense matter that were shot into space after the collision.

This talk will present this story in more detail, address the importance of the discovery, and highlight the role researchers at WVU played in it.