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All in the Family: Relative of Gravitational Wave Source Discovered

By Maryland Today Staff

In October 2017, an international group of astronomers and physicists reported the first simultaneous detection of light and gravitational waves from the same source—a merger of two neutron stars. Now, a team that includes several University of Maryland astronomers has identified a direct relative of that historic event.

The newly described object, named GRB150101B, was first spotted in 2015. Follow-up observations by ground- and space-based observatories suggest that the object shares remarkable similarities with the 2017 neutron star merger, named GW170817.

A studypublished this month in Nature Communicationssuggests that these two separate objects may, in fact, be directly related.

“It’s a big step to go from one detected object to two,” said study lead author Eleonora Troja, an associate research scientist in the Department of Astronomy with a joint appointment at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Our discovery tells us that events like GW170817 and GRB150101B could represent a whole new class of erupting objects that turn on and off—and might actually be relatively common.”

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