Selections from 2019: Neutrinos and Gravitational Waves from Cosmic Catastrophes

Editor’s note: In these last two weeks of 2019, we’ll be looking at a few selections that we haven’t yet discussed on AAS Nova from among the most-downloaded papers published in AAS journals this year. The usual posting schedule will resume in January.

Search for Multimessenger Sources of Gravitational Waves and High-energy Neutrinos with Advanced LIGO during Its First Observing Run, ANTARES, and IceCube

Published January 2019

Main takeaway:

No significant detections of high-energy neutrinos and gravitational waves coming from the same astrophysical source were found during the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory’s (LIGO’s) first observing run. This was established from detailed analysis and comparison of IceCube and Antares neutrino candidates and LIGO gravitational-wave candidates over the ~130-day observing period.

Why it’s interesting:

neutron-star merger

Artist’s impression of two merging neutron stars producing a gamma-ray burst. [National Science Foundation/LIGO/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet]

Null results matter too! Core-collapse supernovae, binary neutron star mergers, and neutron star–black hole mergers are all among the astrophysical sources that we expect to produce both gravitational waves (which come from the source shedding angular momentum) and neutrinos (which come from astrophysical outflows like jets). By searching for joint neutrino/gravitational-wave signals from these sources, non-detections help us set limits on the rates and energies for these cosmic catastrophes.

Why this is only the start:

IceCube and Antares are already remarkable neutrino detectors located beneath kilometers of ice at the South Pole and water in the Mediterranean Sea, respectively. But the future holds hope for a significant upgrade to IceCube (IceCube-Gen2), work on an expanded neutrino observatory in the Mediterranean Sea is already underway (KM3NeT), and we’re even constructing a neutrino observatory in the deepest lake in the world, Lake Baikal in Russia (Baikal-GVD). Observations from these new detectors, combined with data from the upgraded LIGO/Virgo observatories, should place even further constraints on our understanding of astrophysical neutrino and gravitational-wave sources in the future.


A. Albert et al 2019 ApJ 870 134. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aaf21d