Syracuse University scientists assist in discovery of colliding neutron stars

Oct 17, 2017
Originally published on October 17, 2017 5:01 am

Scientists at Syracuse University played a part in a major scientific discovery that could open many of the secrets of the universe. 

For years, astronomers believed metals like gold or platinum were created when two neutron stars collided. They know now that it’s true, according to Syracuse University physics professor Duncan Brown. Scientists discovered it using powerful telescopes and new methods that measure gravitational waves.

“By putting together gravitational waves, to hear the sound of two neutron stars colliding, and then pointing telescopes on the place in the sky where that happened, we detected the light, and the light is the signature of the universe creating gold and platinum,” said Brown.

This offers insights into some of the questions scientists have pondered for centuries about the creation of solar systems, and how metals like gold were created. The collision was discovered in August, and a scientific report released Monday was written by a global team of 3,500 researchers.

Syracuse University physics professor Stephan Ballmer, one of the builders of the device that measures gravitational waves, says the discovery will have applications in industry, and take astronomy to a new level.

“We’ve now shown what we can do with gravitational waves, and as we continue observing, more of that will be coming, and it’s literally a new window on the universe,” said Ballmer.

Brown says Syracuse’s part in this discovery puts its science department on the map.

“What this demonstrates is that Syracuse is at the cutting edge of research and science and technology,” he said. “I mean students will come to Syracuse knowing they can be part of these groundbreaking discoveries that can make major advances in human knowledge.”

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