In 2017, an international group of astronomers and physicists excitedly reported the first simultaneous detection of light and gravitational waves from the same source–a merger of two neutron stars. In the world of astrophysics, Aug. 17, 2017, was a red-letter day. “This is a game-changer for astrophysics,” said UC Santa Barbara faculty member Andy Howell, who leads the supernova group at the Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO). “A hundred years after Einstein theorized gravitational waves, we’ve seen them and traced them back to their source to find an explosion with new physics of the kind we’ve only dreamed about.”
In the 2019 research paper, “The Galactic Habitable Zone and the Age Distribution of Complex Life in the Milky Way”, astrobiologist and lead author, Charles H. Lineweaver of Australia National University, summarized: “We modeled the evolution of the Milky Way to trace the distribution in space and time of four prerequisites for complex life: the presence of a host star, enough heavy elements to form terrestrial planets, sufficient time for biological evolution and an environment free of life-extinguishing supernovae. We identified the ‘Galactic habitable zone’ (GHZ) as an annular region between 7 and 9 kiloparsecs from the Galactic center that widens with time and is composed of stars that formed between 8 and 4 billion years ago.”
“After having monitored tens of thousands of galaxies, we know there are other discoveries waiting to happen. Either faint objects, objects that change quickly, or things we do not even know about yet. The search is still going on!” wrote astrophysicist and cosmologist, Brad Tucker, currently a Research Fellow at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Mt. Stromlo Observatory at the Australian National University, in an email to The Daily Galaxy about undiscovered gems in the Kepler Mission archives. Tucker is one of the leads of the Kepler Extra-Galactic Survey, KEGS, a Kepler Space Telescope Key Program, to understand why and how stars blow.
An enormous amount of gravity from a cluster of distant galaxies causes space to curve so much that light from more distant galaxies is bent. This “gravitational lensing” effect has allowed University of Copenhagen astronomers to observe the same exploding star –SN Requiem–in three different places in the heavens, and may help solve the mystery of cosmic expansion and reveal the nature of dark matter and dark energy.
An extremely important discovery reveals a new pathway for the formation of heavy elements in the infant universe.