The first → gravitational wave event detected in association with an → electromagnetic counterpart. On 2017 August (12h 41m 04s UTC) the gravitational event GW170817 was observed by → Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the → Virgo interferometer. 1.7 seconds later the Earth-orbiting Fermi and INTEGRAL observatories detected a → gamma-ray burst (GRB 170817A). The gravitational wave data were used to attribute the event to the → merger of → neutron stars in a → neutron star binary system. The component masses range 1.17-1.60 → solar masses (Abbott et al., 2017, Physical Review Letters 119, 161101). The source was rapidly localized to a region of 31 deg2 using data from all three detectors. The analysis of the gravitational wave data suggested a distance of 40 (± 8) Mpc for the event. 45 min after sunset in Chile and 10 hours after the GW trigger, astronomers (Coulter et al. 2017, GCN 21529) located the → electromagnetic counterpart of the gravitational wave event in the → lenticular galaxy (S0) → NGC 4993 offset 10.6 arcseconds north-east from center (corresponding to 2.0 kpc). Follow-up observations revealed an optical-infrared → transient known as → kilonova that lasted a few days, as predicted by models of neutron star merger. Kilonova is powered by the synthesis of large amounts of very heavy elements via rapid neutron capture (the → r-process). The merger ejected 0.03-0.05 → solar masses, including high opacity → lanthanides. Kilonovae are believed to be cradles of production of rare → chemical elements like → gold and → platinum (Pian et al., 2017, Nature doi:10.1038/nature24298).
GW, short for → gravitational wave; 170817 detection date, 2017 August 17.