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By Nicholas Kuzma Syracuse, NY (NCC News)-Three Syracuse University physics professors were at the center of what has been called one of the most important moments in astronomy history.
Physics professors Peter Saulson, Duncan Brown and Stefan Ballmer are all apart of the LIGO Project.
The LIGO project uses interferometers to try and detect star collisions.
The interferometers are able to pick up when two stars collide because after a collision, space time is slightly altered.
The professors made news because they were, for the first time in history, able to observe a collision of two neutron stars via gravitational waves.
They then notified astronomers who, with telescopes, saw an afterglow or kilonova, which was caused by the collision.
“It was described at the press conference as one of the biggest things in astronomy ever,” said Professor Stefan Ballmer. “And the reason for that is, for the first time, we saw what is a completely new phenomena what was not observed before.”
Ballmer said the interferometers allowed them to be completely sure that the kilonova was caused by a star collision, which could not be done before either.
The professors gained a lot of press attention over the week because of their work.
Professor Peter Saulson owes that to their communications team.
“The three of us here at Syracuse are benefiting from a communications team that really wants the news of the Syracuse contribution to get out there, and they’ve done a great job,” said Saulson.
Though those involved with the LIGO project have made great strides, the work is not finished.
They must continue the work after this first breakthrough, and need a new generation of scientists to take over the work after them.
“We need young people coming to the field and picking up that work,” said Ballmer.