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LIGO observations confirm theory on heavy elements

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Astrophysicist Chris Fryer was enjoying an evening with friends on August 25 when he got the news of a gravitational-wave detection by LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory.
The event appeared to be a merger of two neutron stars — a specialty for the Los Alamos National Laboratory team of astrophysicists that Fryer leads. As the distant cosmic cataclysm unfolded, fresh observational data was pouring in from the observation — only the fifth published since the observatory began operating almost two years ago.
“As soon as I heard the news, I knew that understanding all of the implications would require input from a broad, multi-disciplinary set of scientists,” said Fryer, who leads Los Alamos’ Center for Theoretical Astrophysics.
Fryer’s colleagues, Ryan Wollaeger and Oleg Korobkin, outlined a series of radiation transport calculations and were given priority on Los Alamos’ supercomputers to run them. “Within a few hours, we were up and running.”
They soon discovered the LIGO data showed more ejected mass from the merger than the simulations accounted for.


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