- All News & Features
- Search News & Features
- Physics Grad Kate Miller Featured in Physics in Your Future APS Brochure
- Gravitational waves: U-M physicists involved in second detection
- The Hunt for Dark Matter Continues: PandaX Reaches World’s Best Sensitivity
- Stars Burning Strangely Make Life in the Multiverse More Likely
- Physics Professor Gordon Kane Awarded 2017 APS J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics
- U-M Astrophysicist Katherine Freese Explains the Search for the Universe’s ‘Dark Stars’
- New Dwarf Planet Solar System’s 2nd Most Distant
- Physicist David Gerdes and Team Find New Dwarf Planet In Our Solar System
- Professor Keith Riles – Member of LIGO Team
- Researchers Invent New Material that can Switch Between Being Hard and Soft
- The 2017 Physics Commencement Live Event
- Physics Professors Receive MURI Grant
- Alec Josaitis Recently Awarded International Institute and Rackham Graduate School Individual Research Fellowship
- Dr. Priyashree Roy Earns 2016 Jefferson Science Associates (JSA) Thesis Prize
- LIGO Detects Gravitational Waves for Third Time
- U-M Physics Alum Alex Nitz Helps Detect Colliding Black Holes in Space
- Professor Henriette Elvang Selected for a College of Literature, Science, and Arts John Dewey Award
- Professor Gordon Kane Quoted in "Yearning for New Physics at CERN, in a Post-Higgs Way"
- Professor Rachel Goldman and Team Develop Technique which Could Boost Efficiency of LED Lighting by 50 Percent and May Pave the Way for Invisibility Cloaking Devices
- Dark Energy Survey reveals most accurate measurement of dark matter structure in the universe
- Professor David Gerdes Featured in USA Today Solar Eclipse Article
- U-M Physics Research Fellow Bachana Lomsadze and Professor Steven Cundiff Develop Novel Spectroscopy Technique that Could Revolutionize Chemical Detection
- Kip S. Thorne, Winner of 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, Has U-M Physics Connections
- LIGO and Virgo Make First Detection of Gravitational Waves Produced By Colliding Neutron Stars
- Leinweber Foundation Gives $8M for Physics Center in U-M Department of Physics
- Four U-M Physics Faculty Named Fellows
- Michigan Fireball Meteor Registers As Quake: Astrophysicist David Gerdes Quoted
- Professor Fred Adams Quoted in Science News Article
- A Modern Rutherford Experiment: Scientists Use Known Energy Neutrinos to Study Nucleus
- It's Givin' Me Excitations: U-M Study Uncovers First Steps of Photosynthesis
- UM Astrophysicist David Gerdes and Team in the Hunt for Planet 9
- U-M Physics Professor Franco Nori Makes 2017 Highly Cited Researchers List
- U-M Society of Physics Students Talk STEM and More
- The 2018 Physics Commencement Live Event
- Professor Timothy McKay Reveals His Science Journey in Recent Podcast
- Physics Students Tali Khain and Noah McNeal Awarded Goldwater Scholarships
- Homer A. Neal 1942-2018
- The Higgs Boson Reveals Its Love for the Top Quark
- Physics Rev E Celebrates 'Milestone Articles' of Physics Faculty
- Physics Graduate Benjamin Isaacoff Awarded Optical Society of America's Guenther Congressional Fellowship
- Professor Katherine Freese and Team's Hunt for Dark Matter Turns to Ancient Minerals
- Professor Benjamin Safdi Awarded DOE’s Early Career Award
- Professor Christine Aidala Serves on National Academy Committee Endorsing Science Case for Electron-Ion Collider
- U-M Physicist Lu Li Cracks Code on Material that Works as Both Conductor, Insulator
- U-M Physicist Wins Nobel Prize
- New Physics Faculty Member Dominika Zgid
- Astrophysicist Katherine Freese Quoted in Astronomy Magazine
- Physicist Jennifer Ogilvie and Team Are Shedding New Light on Photosynthesis
- Professors Hui Deng and Mack Kira Named 2019 Fellows of the Optical Society
- Four Physics Faculty Named 2018 Fellows of the American Physical Society
- Four Physics Faculty Awarded American Physical Society Honors
- Gas-Detecting Laser Device Gets an Upgrade
- U-M Physicists Roberto Merlin, Meredith Henstridge and Team Develop Small Device that Bends Light to Generate New Radiation
- Physics Alum Larry Curtiss and Faculty Advisors Devised Contraption That Lead to Fiber Optics
- Michigan Physics Welcomes LSA Collegiate Postdoctoral Fellow Camille Avestruz
- Support Michigan Physics on Giving Blueday!
- Physicist Timothy Chupp Named Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
- U-M Physics Senior Noah McNeal Awarded Marshall Scholarship
- Astrophysicist Katherine Freese and Colleague’s Latest Theory About Dark Stars Made Astronomy Magazine's Cover Story
- First Postdoctoral and Graduate Student Fellows Named by Leinweber Center for Theoretical Physics
- Physics Graduate Student Awarded 2018-2019 Rackham International Student Fellowship
- Professor David Gerdes Named Next Physics Department Chair
- Three U-M Physicists Make Highly Cited Researchers 2018 List
- State of Michigan Governor Declares February 28, 2019: Chirped Pulse Amplification Day
- Physicist Dragan Huterer Receives Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award
- Physicist Sharon Glotzer Elected to National Academy of Engineering
- Professor Rachel Goldman Elected Vice Chair of Division of Materials Physics
- Physicist Liuyan Zhao Awarded NSF CAREER Award
- Physicist Henriette Elvang Awarded Thurnau Professorship
- Physics Senior Sophie Barterian Earns Prestigious Luce Scholarship
- Electric Dipole Moments and the Search for the Origin of Matter
- Three Physics Graduate Students Named Recipients of 2019-2020 Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship
- Professor Christine Aidala receives Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to Italy
- Professor August Evrard's Problem Roulette Tool Recently Awarded Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize
- Five U-M Physics Faculty Recently Promoted
- Professor Steven Cundiff Discusses Quantum Information Science at the White House
- Professor Stephen Forrest named Henry Russel Lecturer for 2020
- Physicist Roy Clarke and International Team Devise Way to Show How Common Elements Can Make a More Energy-Secure Future
- Professor Jens-Christian Meiners Receives Grant to Tackle the Bends
- Graduate Student Summer Fellows Named by Leinweber Center for Theoretical Physics
- Professor Christine Aidala Wins Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers
- U-M Physics Professor Wins Fundamental Physics Innovation Award
- 2019 U-M Physics Graduate Wins American Physical Society LeRoy Apker Award
- Pushing boundaries: Nobel prize winner on science literacy and lasers
- DESI opens its 5,000 eyes to capture the colors of the cosmos
- Team at U-M Sheds Light on New Electromagnetic Ordering
- LUX-ZEPLIN Dark Matter Detector Moved Nearly a Mile Underground
- Support Michigan Physics on Giving Blueday
- Six U-M Physics Students Awarded Competitive National Fellowships
- Professor Liuyan Zhao Wins Prestigious Air Force Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) Award
- Two Graduate Students Awarded Prestigious Department of Energy Fellowships
- Electron-Ion Collider, a New Nuclear Physics Facility, to Be Built at Brookhaven National Laboratory
- Physicist David Gerdes Quoted in Michigan News Article Regarding How COVID-19 Disrupts Research Projects
- Physicist Ben Safdi and Research Team Provide Another Twist in the Dark Matter Story
- U-M Physics Faculty Member Named Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Professor Xiaoming Mao Awarded $7.5M Grant to Bring Metamaterial to Life
- Now Complete, Telescope Instrument is Poised to Begin Its Search for Answers About Dark Energy
- Celebrating Our Undergraduate Awardees
- Celebrating Our Graduate Awardees
- U-M Senior’s COVID-19 Data Model Reaches CDC
- Physics Grad Student Rory Fitzpatrick and Professor Josh Spitz Shed Light on Electron Neutrino Interactions
- Professors Bjoern Penning and Marcelle Soares-Santos Highlighted in Physics Today Article
- U-M Physics Awarded $7.1 Million on Project to Upgrade the ATLAS Experiment
- When Dancers and Aliens Overlap
- Physicist David Lubensky and Team Determine Stress Fibers Help Cells Keep Their Shape—and May Also Regulate Size, During Development
- "Physics: A Resounding Legacy" - A Tribute to Patron Norman E. Barnett
- Physics Professor Joshua Spitz, Graduate Student Johnathon Jordan, and Research Team Propose Using Ancient Minerals from Deep within Earth’s Crust to Measure Cosmic Radiation
- U-M Physics Professors Byron Roe and Joshua Spitz Part of Collaboration to Search for New Physics
- Physics Grad Student Christopher Dessert Part of Team Researching X-Rays from Neutron Stars Which Could Lead to Discovery of New Particle
- Assistant Professor Liuyan Zhao Awarded a Prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship
- Assistant Professor Marcelle Soares-Santos Named 2021 Cottrell Scholar
- U-M Physicists Part of Study that Finds Unexpected Antimatter Asymmetry in the Proton
- Physics Graduate Student Kevin Napier is Lead Author on New Paper Casting Doubt on ‘Planet Nine’
- Physics Undergraduate Jiani Fei Proposes Solution to Quantum Field Theory Problem
- Physicists Hui Deng, Steve Forrest, and Research Team Discover “Egg Carton” Quantum Dot Array Could Lead to Ultralow Power Devices
- U-M Physics Group Led by Professor Tim Chupp Joins in Announcement of Stronger Evidence of New Physics Revealed by Fermilab's Muon g-2 Experiment
- U-M Physics Professors Roberto Merlin, Gregory Tarlé, and Graduate Student Noah Green Help Create Novel Optical Physics Method to Measure the Expansion of the Universe
- Physicist Christine Aidala Featured in LSA Magazine’s Spring 2021 Edition
- Dr. Melissa Hutcheson, Professor Myron Campbell and Research Team Find Possible Deviation from the Standard Model of Physics
- U-M Physics Professor Lu Li, Dr. Kuan-Wen Chen, Dr. Ziji Xiang and Research Teams Reveal a New State of Matter in Kondo Insulator
- Physicist Jennifer Ogilvie, Assistant Research Scientist Yin Song, and Researchers Trace Path of Light in Photosynthesis
- Dark Energy Survey Releases Most Precise Look at Universe's Evolution
- Celebrating our 2021 Graduate Awardees!
- Physics Collegiate Fellow Eric Spanton Talks ‘Weird Science’
- An Inconstant Hubble Constant? U-M Research Suggests Fix to Cosmological Cornerstone
- ATLAS Provided the First Observation of the Triboson WWW Process
- 1985 Nobel laureate Klaus von Klitzing gives 29th annual Ta-You Wu lecture
- The Wow Moment, Remote
- MicroBooNE Experiment’s First Results Show No Hint of a Sterile Neutrino
- Magnets with a Twist: U-M Physics Researchers Liuyan Zhao and Her Team Engineer Magnetic Complexity into Atomically Thin Magnets
- Dr. Melissa Hutcheson Wins APS Mitsuyoshi Tanaka Dissertation Award in Experimental Particle Physics
- UM Physicists Michael Schubnell, Gregory Tarlé and Team Part of Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument Which Creates Largest 3D Map of the Cosmos
- Michigan Physics graduate Students Make Key Contributions to Experimental Results
- U-M Physics Researcher Co-Chairs Ballistic Missile Defense Report
- Congratulations to Physicist David Lubensky Awarded a 2022 Simons Fellowship
- Please Donate Today (March 17) to the Undergraduate Support Fund for Giving Blueday!
- What’s Inside a Black Hole? U-M Physicist Enrico Rinaldi Uses Quantum Computing, Machine Learning to Find Out
- Dr. Sangmin Choi Recipient of Honorable Mention in Rackham’s 2021 ProQuest Dissertation Awards
- U-M Physics Alum Lia Merminga Appointed Director of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
- Physics and Astronomy Senior Anna Simpson One of Five Students to Win Prestigious 2022 Goldwater Scholarship!
- Congratulations to Mark Newman on His Election to the Royal Society
- U-M Renames Randall Laboratory Addition After Pioneering Physicist Homer A. Neal
- Congratulations to Anna Simpson, U-M's 2022 Astronaut Scholar!
- Michigan Physics Welcomes Jalen Rose Leadership Academy Scholars to Ann Arbor Campus
- Successful Startup of Particle Detector Aims to Pin Down Dark Matter
- U-M Researchers Untangle the Physics of High-Temperature Superconductors
- Live From the International Space Station, It’s Saturday Morning Physics
- A team of researchers—Robert McGehee and Aaron Pierce of U-M Physics and Gilly Elor of Johannes Gutenberg University—proposed a new candidate for dark matter: HYPER, or “HighlY Interactive ParticlE Relics.”
- A Special Thank You to Navy Captain Josh Cassada and to NASA!
- Physicist Gregory Tarlé and Team, Find First Observational Evidence Linking Black Holes to Dark Energy
- Support Michigan Physics on Giving Blueday!
- $18M to advance materials research for quantum computing, sustainable plastics and more
- Michigan Physicists and Collaborators New Muon Result Explores Uncharted Territory in Search for New Physics
- U-M Physicist Joshua Spitz Receives 2023 Experimental Physics Investigator Award
- The Universe Caught Suppressing Cosmic Structure Growth
- All Events
- Special Lectures
- K-12 Programs
- Saturday Morning Physics
- Seminars & Colloquia
The top spectrogram shows the characteristic “chirp” of a gravitational wave signal seen by LIGO as both the signal’s frequency and intensity rise sharply in the final moments of the death spiral of two colliding neutrons stars. The bottom two optical images from the Dark Energy Camera show the resulting transient kilonova source near galaxy NGC 4993 at first detection and its absence after rapidly fading (kilonova location marked by the reticle).
"LIGO's first detected neutron star merger brought with it a burst of gamma rays and light at all wavelengths. Nature has smiled on us once again," said U-M Physics Professor Keith Riles.
For the first time, scientists have directly detected gravitational waves — ripples in space and time — in addition to light from the spectacular collision of two neutron stars.
This marks the first time that a cosmic event has been viewed in both gravitational waves and light. The discovery was made using the U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO); the Europe-based Virgo detector; and some 60 ground- and space-based telescopes.
Neutron stars are the smallest, densest stars known to exist and are formed when massive stars explode in supernovae. As these neutron stars spiraled together, they emitted gravitational waves that were detectable for about 100 seconds. When they collided, a flash of light in the form of gamma rays was emitted and seen on Earth about two seconds after the gravitational waves. In the hours, days and weeks following the smashup, other forms of light, or electromagnetic radiation — including ultraviolet, optical, infrared, and radio waves — were detected as part of the afterglow.
"We are remarkably lucky that LIGO's first detected neutron star merger brought with it an immediately detected gamma ray burst, followed by an afterglow seen in radio waves, in infrared, visible and ultraviolet light, and in X-rays. Nature has smiled on us once again," said University of Michigan physics professor Keith Riles, leader of the Michigan Gravitational Wave Group and a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration's Detection Committee, which validated the discovery.
"The chirp we saw in our data was simply beautiful—nearly too good to be true," said Richard Gustafson, a senior research scientist in the Michigan Gravitational Wave Group, who is stationed full-time at the LIGO Hanford Observatory.
A team of scientists, including other U-M physicists and astronomers, using the Dark Energy Camera, or DECam (the primary observing tool of the Dark Energy Survey), was among the first to observe the fiery aftermath of this burst of gravitational waves, capturing images of the optical counterpart within 12 hours of the initial collision.
U-M physics and astronomy professor David Gerdes, a member of the DECam team, called this one of the most important astronomical discoveries of his career.
"Together with the LIGO team, we've helped give birth to an entirely new field: the study of the most extreme astrophysical environments using both gravitational and electromagnetic waves," he said. "We've dreamed of this for decades."
A worldwide consortium of scientists, including members from the University of Michigan, built the Dark Energy Camera, one of the most powerful digital imaging devices in existence. It was integrated and tested at Fermilab, the lead laboratory on the Dark Energy Survey, and is mounted on the National Science Foundation’s 4-meter Blanco telescope, part of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, a division of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. The DES images are processed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Professor Riles noted, "This event will prove to be a figurative gold mine, in more than one sense, " alluding to the evidence from the light-based observations of the post-merger "kilonova", indicating signatures of recently synthesized material, including gold and platinum. Theorists have suggested that the merger of neutron stars leads to kilonovae that produce a substantial fraction of the Universe’s elements heavier than iron. A single neutron star merger might produce an amount of gold comparable to the total mass of the Earth. "Good luck collecting it, though!" Riles added.
The kilonova was clearly evident from the DECam images taken in multiple wavelengths as soon as the sky became dark enough for the target region to be observed. The significance of the discovery was immediately apparent, and the team exchanged excited messages throughout the night. They continued to observe the fading afterglow over the ensuing weeks until the object disappeared from sight.
The results of the new discovery have been published in a series of articles in journals that include Physical Review Letters, Astrophysical Journal Letters and Nature. One paper focuses on “multi-messenger astronomy” (MMA), combining results from gravitational waves and from follow-up by electromagnetic and neutrino telescopes, now published in a landmark Astrophysical Journal Letters article co-authored by more than 3,000 scientists worldwide.
Professor Riles, a member of the LSC Executive Committee, led the LIGO/ Virgo internal review of the MMA paper, which was written by a 12-person team co-chaired by the heads of the LIGO Hanford and LIGO Livingston Observatories, Michael Landry and Joseph Giaime. Riles remarked, "Producing a paper with such diverse content, authorship and astronomical perspective required a remarkable effort, one marked by many late nights and intense discussions among the paper-writing team." He added, "It was a genuine pleasure to work with such talented and hard-working colleagues on this special paper, one which will attract enormous interest from astronomers in the years to come."
U-M physics professor Gregory Tarlé, another member of the DECam team, remarked, "It was immensely exciting to see the world’s observatories mobilized by the LIGO trigger to study this first binary neutron star merger and the subsequent kilonova. These combined observations and more like them to come may expose subtle changes in the properties of the mysterious dark energy that will ultimately lead to an understanding of the very fabric of spacetime."
"The era of multi-messenger astronomy is now well under way, and it’s gratifying that U-M scientists are participating in it on both sides," noted Riles who recalled earlier groundbreaking multi-messenger or multi-wavelength observations in which U-M physicists played key roles. One example included the detection of neutrinos from Supernova 1987A with the IMB (Irvine-Michigan-Brookhaven) underground water tank experiment in 1987 (led by physics professor emeritus John Van der Velde), an event which opened a new field of neutrino astronomy. Another example was the first rapid optical detection of a gamma ray burst aftermath in 1999 by physics professor Carl Akerlof’s Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment (ROTSE) team, pioneering work that prepared the ground for August’s rapid follow-up of gravitational wave detections by teams all over the globe.
The gravitational wave signal, named GW170817, was first detected on Aug. 17 at 8:41 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time; the detection was made by the two identical LIGO detectors, located in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana. A third detector, Virgo, situated near Pisa, Italy, recovered only a small signal but provided crucial information for localizing the cosmic event.
On Aug. 17, one of LIGO’s observatories caught a strong signal of gravitational waves from space. Around the same time, the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor on NASA’s Fermi space telescope had detected a burst of gamma rays. LIGO’s real-time data analysis software noted the gamma-ray burst event and subsequently found a signal in LIGO’s second interferometer, causing the team to immediately notify the astronomical community.
The LIGO data indicated that two astrophysical objects located at the relatively close distance of 130 million light-years from Earth had been spiraling in toward each other. It appeared that the objects were not as massive as binary black holes — objects that LIGO and Virgo had previously detected. Instead, the inspiraling objects were estimated to be around 1.1 and 1.6 times the mass of the sun, in the mass range of neutron stars. A neutron star is about 20 kilometers, or 12 miles, in diameter and is so dense that a teaspoon of neutron star material has a mass of about a billion tons.
Though the LIGO detectors first picked up the gravitational wave in the United States, Virgo, in Italy, played a key role in the story. Because of its orientation with respect to the source at the time of detection, Virgo recovered a small signal; combined with the signal sizes and timing in the LIGO detectors, this allowed scientists to triangulate the position in the sky. After performing a thorough vetting to make sure the signals were not an artifact of instrumentation, scientists concluded that a gravitational wave came from a relatively small patch in the southern sky.
With these coordinates, a handful of observatories around the world were able, hours later, to start searching the region of the sky where the signal was thought to originate. A new point of light, resembling a new star, was first found by optical telescopes, including by the DECam team. Ultimately, about 60 observatories on the ground and in space observed the event at their representative wavelengths.
In the weeks and months ahead, telescopes around the world will continue to observe the afterglow of the neutron star merger and gather further evidence about various stages of the merger, its interaction with its surroundings, and the processes that produce the heaviest elements in the Universe.
Other members of the Michigan Gravitational Wave Group include graduate students Ansel Neunzert, Orion Sauter and Jonathan Wang, along with undergraduates Sophie Hourihane, Paul Huang, Humza Khan, Jessica Leviton, Eilam Morag and Kaushik Rao.
Other members of the Michigan DECam team include faculty members Gus Evrard, Dragan Huterer, and Chris Miller, research scientist Michael Schubnell, postdoctoral fellow Ed Lin, graduate students Rutuparna Das, Anthony Kremin, and Stephanie Hamilton, and undergraduates Waleed Al-Rawi, Kyle Franson, Tali Khain, and Lynus Zullo.
LIGO is funded by the NSF, and operated by Caltech and MIT, which conceived of LIGO and led the Initial and Advanced LIGO projects. Financial support for the Advanced LIGO project was led by the NSF with Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council) and Australia (Australian Research Council) making significant commitments and contributions to the project.
More than 1,200 scientists and some 100 institutions from around the world participate in the effort through the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian collaboration OzGrav. Additional partners are listed at http://ligo.org/partners.php
The Virgo collaboration consists of more than 280 physicists and engineers belonging to 20 different European research groups: six from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France; eight from the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) in Italy; two in the Netherlands with Nikhef; the MTA Wigner RCP in Hungary; the POLGRAW group in Poland; Spain with the University of Valencia; and the European Gravitational Observatory, EGO, the laboratory hosting the Virgo detector near Pisa in Italy, funded by CNRS, INFN, and Nikhef.
The Dark Energy Survey is a collaboration of more than 400 scientists from 26 institutions in seven countries. Its primary instrument, the 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera, is mounted on the 4-meter Blanco telescope at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, and its data are processed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Funding for the DES Projects has been provided by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Ministry of Science and Education of Spain, the Science and Technology Facilities Council of the United Kingdom, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, ETH Zurich for Switzerland, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, the Center for Cosmology and Astro-Particle Physics at the Ohio State University, the Mitchell Institude for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M University,Financiadora de Estudos e Projetos, Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico and the Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the collaborating institutions in the Dark Energy Survey, the list of which can be found at www.darkenergysurvey.org/collaboration.