Gravitational wave discovery a boon for nuclear science? NSF physics collaboration to discuss

EAST LANSING, Mich. –The Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics – Center for the Evolution of the Elements (JINA-CEE) will host a livestream event on 1 December featuring scientists who will discuss the nuclear astrophysics impacts of a groundbreaking gravitational-wave science discovery announced worldwide in October.

JINA-CEE is a multi-institutional Physics Frontiers Center funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dedicated to interdisciplinary research at the interface of nuclear physics and astrophysics, JINA-CEE scientists address fundamental questions about the evolution and properties of matter in the cosmos, and the origin of the chemical elements that make up our world. Accordingly, JINA-CEE scientists are eager to discuss further research directions related to the gravitational-wave science discovery and follow-up observations.

In October, the Gravitational Wave Laboratories LIGO and VIRGO announced the first observation of gravitational waves from the merger of two neutron stars on August 17, 2017, in an event called GW170817. Immediate follow-up observations with 70 observatories around the world revealed a short gamma-ray burst and a so-called kilo-nova associated with the same event. A kilo-nova is the weeklong afterglow of a neutron star merger and is thought to be powered by the radioactive decay of rare isotopes produced and ejected during the merger.

The GW170817 event is a very significant discovery with impact on nuclear astrophysics. It is the long-sought "smoking gun" observation that directly indicates a possible site for the rapid neutron capture process (r-process) thought to be responsible for many of the heavy elements in nature.

The observations indicate that neutron star mergers occur frequently enough and eject enough material to be major nucleosynthesis sites. It is now more important than ever to understand the underlying nuclear physics to connect merger models with the new observations, and to determine exactly which elements are produced in such events. In addition, the observations provide new information on the properties of neutron stars, which directly inform longstanding questions in nuclear science about the nature of nuclear matter.

The JINA-CEE livestream event brings together nuclear physicists, astronomers, and computational astrophysicists to discuss the impact of these observations on nuclear science and nuclear astrophysics.

The livestream event will begin at 12:30 p.m. US/EST on Friday, 1 December. More information about the event is available at Online participants are encouraged to submit questions via Twitter using the hashtag #gwnuclear, or via email to

Based at Michigan State University, JINA-CEE consists of a unique network of four core institutions (MSU, Arizona State University, University of Notre Dame, and University of Washington) and 22 associated institutions in seven countries.