Vicky Kalogera, a Northwestern University physicist, took her week of much-needed vacation in Utah this past August.
“I canceled everything and ended up working nonstop since that moment,” she told Gizmodo.
Today, physicists and astronomers around the world are announcing a whole new kind of gravitational wave signal at a National Science Foundation press conference in Washington, DC.
That August day, x-ray telescopes, visible light, radio telescopes, and gamma-ray telescopes all spotted a flash, one consistent with a pair of neutron stars swirling together, colliding and coalescing into a black hole.
The observation, called a “kilonova,” simultaneously answered questions like “where did the heavy metal in our Universe come from” and “what causes some of the gamma-ray bursts scientists have observed since the 60s.” It also posed new ones.
The Fermi Gamma-ray Space telescope started the dominos at 8:41 am EDT, detecting what NASA astrophysicist Julie McEnery called a “perfectly normal short gamma-ray burst,” a quick flash of invisible light from some distant source.