CAREER: A Holistic Study of Compact-Object Mergers across the Electromagnetic Spectrum

Project: Research project

Project Details


OVERVIEW: Cosmic collisions of black holes (BH) and neutron stars (NSs) lie at the intersection of several critical areas of modern Astrophysics and Cosmology: as laboratories for extreme physics, as cosmic sites of nucleosynthesis of the heaviest chemical elements, and as standard sirens. The recent first joint detection of gravitational-waves (GWs) and light from the NS-NS merger GW170817 ushered in the new era of Multi-Messenger Astrophysics. Upcoming upgrades of the GW experiments and planned electromagnetic (EM) facilities (e.g., the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope -LSST) will take this effort to the next step regarding distances probed, rate of joint discoveries and capabilities of localization. This proposal capitalizes on this guaranteed stream of data, adding the unique perspective of a truly multi-wavelength (X-ray to radio) characterization of compact-object mergers across the EM spectrum.

The field of Multi-Messenger Astrophysics is in its infancy. After the first joint EM-GW detection, the frontier is now to begin to map the post-merger properties as constrained by the EM transients. This is the overarching goal of this investigation. By acquiring multi-wavelength observations that sample both the thermal and non-thermal emission, this effort will map the diversity of the EM outcomes from NS mergers. In doing so, this investigation will lead to the first study of a population of NS mergers detected via GWs and light; has the potential to lead to transformative results, like the discovery of the first EM counterpart of a BH-NS merger; it explores pristine portions of the parameter space of transients associated to NS mergers (e.g. the non-thermal emission from the kilonova ejecta). Furthermore, results from this effort will drive the design of observational strategies of GW sources by premiere facilities like LSST, enabling a long-lasting impact that extends well beyond the duration of this CAREER award. Finally, this project will lead to a complete, freely-accessible, multi-wavelength repository of Cosmic Collisions, which will become a unique resource for the entire astronomical community, and will serve as a natural bridge between hard-core scientific investigation and the Public Outreach/Educational component.

The deep level of integration of research, education and public outreach within this project makes it a golden opportunity to (i) form the next generation of multi-messenger scientists and (ii) increase the scientific literacy of the wider public in the new ways of investigation of the Universe. The PI will integrate her research program with three complementary educational programs. Each program is designed to scale and will have a broad and long-lasting impact beyond this CAREER award. First, the PI will offer summer research opportunities to under-represented minorities and women undergraduates. Second, she will work with Chicago-area high school teachers to develop curricular material on compact-object mergers, and to guide their students in research projects. Third, she will work with visually impaired scientists and collaborate with professional musicians to translate astronomical measurements into sound, to make multi-messenger astrophysics accessible to everybody and engage the wider public with an all-senses experience. The proposed scientific research on NS mergers will provide the main theme to these programs. Graduate student and postdoc funded through this project will be involved in all activities.

This research will advance our understanding of the physics of compa
Effective start/end date9/1/208/31/25


  • National Science Foundation (AST-1944985)


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