Gravitational Waves: the new frontier in Astronomy

Open Night on 27 January 2018
“Gravitational Waves: the new frontier in Astronomy”


Members of the public are welcome to an Open Night at the SAAO in Cape Town on 27 January 2018, starting at 20h00. Dr. David Buckley (SAAO) will present a talk titled Gravitational Waves: the new frontier in Astronomy. This will be followed by a tour of the site and (weather permitting) star gazing.

Summary of the talk

The first detection of gravitational waves, long predicted from Einstein’s general theory of relativity, was made on 14 September 2015, heralding a new frontier of exploration of the Universe. This event was the result of two coalescing black holes, apart from the detection by two gravitational wave “telescopes” in the US, no other signs of the event were detected across the electromagnetic spectrum covered by conventional telescope (e.g. radio, infrared, optical, X-ray, gamma-ray), as was predicted by theory. Since then, a further five events, all black hole mergers, have been detected, again with no electromagnetic counterparts detected.

Then on 17 August 2017, a new type of gravitational wave source, associated with a merger of a pair of neutron stars in a relatively nearby galaxy, was detected. For the first time, a counterpart, resulting from an explosive and energetic kilonova, was promptly detected in gamma rays, ultraviolet, optical and infrared and later at other wavelengths (radio and X-rays). Southern African Large Telescope and other telescopes at the SA Astronomical Observatory were some of the first to observe this unique event as part of an unprecedented international campaign involving dozens of telescopes and over 3500 astronomers.


The Open Night will take place at the SAAO in Cape Town. The SAAO is located off Liesbeeck Parkway, next to the River Club.


Gates open at 19h30 and parking is available on site.

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