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Gamma Rays and Gravitational Waves Lead to Solution of Astrophysical Puzzle, Award for Rosalba Perna

Observations of gamma-ray bursts and gravitational waves from colliding neutron stars has led to a solution to a long-standing puzzle in astrophysics, as well as the 2022 Aspen Institute Italia Award for Dr. Rosalba Perna and her collaborators.

NASA's visual interpretation of the two neutron stars colliding, emitting gravitational waves during the collision and a gamma-ray burst after impact.

The study, published in 2018, looks at the binary neutron star merger labeled GW170817 to determine why the detected gamma-ray pulse was not as bright as expected. The authors developed models to predict what an observer should expect to see at various locations with respect to the collision and gamma-ray burst, and these models strongly suggest that short gamma-ray bursts can be produced in these types of mergers.

The models showed that structured emission jets from the collision can produce light curves that grow brighter and dim over time, as was observed with the GW170817 collision -- and what had initially cast doubt on the association between the merger and the gamma-ray burst. With this study, the link between the two is more concrete and will allow astronomers to look for similar events more closely in the future.

The published article may be found here.