Capturing Light from a Gravitational Wave Source

On August 17, 2017, gravitational wave observatories in the U.S. and Europe detected a signal (GW170817) consistent with the merger of two neutron stars ‑ a long-predicted event called kilonova. The Subaru Telescope acted quickly and has successfully imaged the optical and infrared counterpart to this gravitational wave source. GW170817 presents the first case in which astronomers have observed both gravitational waves and visible light from the same event. At the Subaru Telescope, scientists witnessed the rapid brightness evolution that matches the kilonova simulation. In other words, Subaru’s camera captured the production site of heavy metals such as gold and platinum in the universe.