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Faculty of Science


Nelson Mandela University’s Faculty of  Science congratulates the LIGO and Virgo scientific collaborations on their detection of gravitational waves from two merging neutron stars. 

After four previous detections of gravitational waves from merging black holes, this is the first direct observation by LIGO and Virgo of a neutron star merger. In a truly global effort, thousands of physicists and astronomers using a diverse suite of ground-based and space-based telescopes across the planet successfully identified a rapidly evolving counterpart of this event. This marks the first time that a merger of two neutron stars has been observed both through the gravitational wave emission of the in-spiraling merger, and the electromagnetic radiation of material ejected in the merging process. 

The Faculty of Science notes with delight that South African physicists and astronomers are actively involved in this unique discovery. South African contributions include observations using the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), telescopes at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), and MeerKAT/SKA South Africa. The publication that describes the planet-wide effort surrounding this discovery, numbering approximately 3000 co-authors, includes researchers from 3 national facilities (SAAO, SALT and MeerKAT/SKA South Africa) and 5 South African universities (North-West University, University of Johannesburg, University of the Free State, University of Witwatersrand, and University of Cape Town). 

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