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.”