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Analysing the heavy element factories of the Universe : photometric and spectroscopic sample study of kilonovae

Project description

From the wreckage of star collisions to today's advanced technologies

Gravitational waves, invisible ripples in space, were created by the collision of two black holes over a billion years ago but were detected only fairly recently. A few years later, scientists measured a tremendous gravitational event resulting from the merger of two dense neutron stars. This time, it was accompanied by a brightly glowing "kilonova" produced by the radioactive decay of matter ejected during the merger. The spectroscopic emission of this event confirmed scientists' predictions, addressing an open question about the origin of heavy elements like gold and uranium. As one data point is not enough, the EU-funded GW project is laying the groundwork for amassing a large sample from future kilonova detections.


The recent first detection of gravitational waves from a binary neutron star merger and its associated optical counterpart, the so-called 'kilonova', opened up a new era of multi messenger astronomy. The intense photometric and spectroscopic campaign that followed provided tantalising evidence that kilonovae are a prime source of heavy elements in the Universe. Nevertheless, with just a single event, and with only rudimentary theoretical models, it remains unclear how important kilonovae are in enriching the cosmos. This project aims to address this issue by building the first sample of kilonovae through dedicated follow-up observations of future compact binary mergers detected with the LIGO/Virgo gravitational wave detectors, which will soon come back online. The three principle objectives will be to (i) determine the ejecta mass distribution of kilonovae, (ii) identify the composition of kilonova ejecta and (iii) understand the progenitor systems of kilonovae from their host galaxies. Working with Jesper Sollerman and his GREAT group at Oskar Klein Centre, I will have access to ENGRAVE and GROWTH, which are two leading projects set up with the explicit goal to follow-up and monitor gravitational wave electromagnetic counterparts. The group at Oskar Klein Centre is leading vital research in theoretical modelling of compact object mergers. Combining observational resources, theoretical models and my analytical expertise in transient astronomy, this project promises to greatly contribute to the investigation of gravitational wave sources, kilonovae and the nucleosynthesis of heavy elements.


Net EU contribution
€ 191 852,16
Universitetsvagen 10
10691 Stockholm

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Östra Sverige Stockholm Stockholms län
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00