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The Significance of Yesterday’s Gravitational Wave Announcement: an FAQ

17 Oct 2017, 16:03 UTC
The Significance of Yesterday’s Gravitational Wave Announcement: an FAQ
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Yesterday’s post on the results from the LIGO/VIRGO network of gravitational wave detectors was aimed at getting information out, rather than providing the pedagogical backdrop. Today I’m following up with a post that attempts to answer some of the questions that my readers and my personal friends asked me. Some wanted to understand better how to visualize what had happened, while others wanted more clarity on why the discovery was so important. So I’ve put together a post which (1) explains what neutron stars and black holes are and what their mergers are like, (2) clarifies why yesterday’s announcement was important — and there were many reasons, which is why it’s hard to reduce it all to a single soundbite.
First, a disclaimer: I am *not* an expert in the very complex subject of neutron star mergers and the resulting explosions, called kilonovas. These are much more complicated than black hole mergers. I am still learning some of the details. Hopefully I’ve avoided errors, but you’ll notice a few places where I don’t know the answers … yet. Perhaps my more expert colleagues will help me fill in the gaps over time.
Please, if you spot any errors, don’t hesitate ...

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