Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics | 2016 Feb 13
Einstein's general theory of relativity predicts the emission of gravitational waves by massive celestial bodies moving though space-time. For the past century gravitational waves have eluded a direct detection, but now the LIGO Virgo Collaboration has announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves, emitted by a merging pair of black holes. Catastrophic mergers of binary systems can also produce brilliant and explosive fireworks of light, so a team of astronomers, including at Harvard, sought evidence of such an visible afterglow. Although none was spotted, this work represents the first detailed search for a visible counterpart of a gravitational wave event. It also will serve as a model for similar event follow-up in the future.
- The Dark Energy Survey uses a 570-megapixel camera mounted on the Blanco Telescope in Chile to image 5,000 square degrees of southern sky. The survey has already discovered more than 1,000 supernovae and mapped millions of galaxies to help us understand the accelerating expansion of our universe. (Credit: Fermilab)
"Our team has been anxiously waiting for the first detection of gravitational waves so that we can rapidly point the Dark Energy Camera at this location and search for the associated visible light," says Edo Berger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), the Principal Investigator of the follow-up team. "It's one of the most powerful instruments in the world for this purpose."
The joint detection of gravitational waves and light isn't easy, requiring large and wide-fields telescopes to rapidly scan the sky location of a gravitational wave source. The team used the 3 square-degree Dark Energy Camera (DECam) imager mounted on the Blanco 4-meter telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The search program is a collaboration between astronomers from multiple institutions in the United States, the Dark Energy Survey (DES), and members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.
The team rapidly observed the sky location of the first gravitational wave source discovered by LIGO within a day of its announced discovery on 2015 September 16. ...
A Dark Energy Camera Search for an Optical Counterpart to the
First Advanced LIGO Gravitational Wave Event GW150914 - M. Soares-Santos et al
- arXiv.org > astro-ph > arXiv:1602.04198 > 12 Feb 2016
after the Advanced LIGO Gravitational Wave Event GW150914 - J. Annis et al
- arXiv.org > astro-ph > arXiv:1602.04199 > 12 Feb 2016