In DepthAstronomy

Big telescopes join the hunt for flashes in the sky

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Science  14 Feb 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6479, pp. 724-725
DOI: 10.1126/science.367.6479.724

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Summary

Last month, gravitational wave detectors picked up ripples in spacetime from a cosmic cataclysm: the possible merger of a black hole with a neutron star, an event never seen before. Responding to an alert, telescopes around the world swiveled toward the apparent source to watch for the collision's afterglow and confirm that it was a first. The array of telescopes joining the hunt was unprecedented, too: It included the 8.1-meter Gemini North telescope on Hawaii's Mauna Kea, one of the biggest in the world. On this occasion, Gemini and the other telescopes saw nothing unexpected. Yet it was an important test of a new telescope network and software developed to automate observations of fast-moving events. Rejigging Gemini's nightly schedule normally takes hours, but this time it was accomplished in minutes with a few clicks of a mouse.

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