Meeting Information

Gravitational Waves and Light from Merging Neutron Stars

November 14, 2018
American Center for Physics
College Park, MD

Date: November 14, 2018

Speaker: Dr. Judith Racusin, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Topic: Gravitational Waves and Light from Merging Neutron Stars

Time and Location: 1:00 p.m., with Q&A to follow in a 1st floor conference room at the American Center for Physics (, 1 Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD — off River Rd., between Kenilworth Ave. and Paint Branch Parkway.

Abstract: On August 17, 2017, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope’s Gamma-ray Burst Monitor detected a gamma-ray burst (a short ~1 second flash of gamma-rays) accompanied (1.7 seconds earlier) by the detection of gravitational waves from the merging of two neutron stars. These events led to one of the largest ground- and space-based observing campaigns in modern astronomy, as well as one of the worst kept secrets. This event proved the hypothesis of the progenitors of short gamma-ray bursts, it revealed the first clear detection of an accompanying kilonova explosion (responsible for much of the heavy-element formation in the Universe), and demonstrated a late-rising off-axis afterglow (the jet plowing into the surrounding environment). This one event led to insight into an incredible range of topics including: the speed of gravity, the neutron star equation of state, an independent measure of the expansion rate of the Universe, and many more.  In this presentation, I will describe the observations of GW170817, what we learned from it, and prospects for the future.

Biography: Dr. Judy Racusin is an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. She serves as a Deputy Project Scientist for the Fermi Mission and is a member of both the GBM and LAT instrument teams. She studies gamma-ray bursts primarily with the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, and pursues future space-based observatories that will address open questions in the fields of gamma-ray bursts and their connection to gravitational waves. Judy received her Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University in 2009.  She also currently serves APS as the Division of Astrophysics (DAP) Deputy Secretary/Treasurer.