South African researchers have been part of a massive international effort to observe the collision of two neutron stars, after astronomers at the US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the European-based Virgo detector spotted gravitational waves coming from this cataclysmic event in a galaxy 130-million light years away. Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space-time, and although they were predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916 they were only detected for the first time two years ago, by scientists at LIGO who this year won the Nobel Prize for physics. Since then there have been three more gravitational wave observations, but they have all been produced when black holes spiraled into each other, emitting no light. Monday’s announcement, which took simultaneously at several locations around the world, marks the first time astronomers have observed gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation coming from the same event. Petri Vaisane...

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