Event Detail Information
Astronomy Colloquium - "Setting the Stage for the Era of Gravitational Wave Discovery"
The first advanced gravitational wave detectors are slated to begin operations in 2015, and will bring one of the most anticipated discoveries of the century: the direct detection of gravitational waves. The premier gravitational wave sources are the mergers of two compact objects, involving either two neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole. While the gravitational wave signal will give insight to the basic properties of compact objects, a coincident detection at electromagnetic wavelengths will significantly leverage the event by providing precise sky localization and an association to a galaxy. The main challenge will be how to identify the correct electromagnetic counterpart amidst an otherwise dynamic sky. In this talk, I present ongoing efforts to characterize the electromagnetic signatures from compact object mergers. In particular, I present observational evidence linking mergers to two distinct counterparts: short-duration gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and long-lived transients powered by the nucleosynthesis of heavy elements ("kilonovae"). Such observations are crucial in setting the stage for the upcoming revolutionary era of gravitational wave discovery.