Cabinet congratulates SALT and SAAO scientists

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cabinet has congratulated the scientists who participated in the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) and Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) telescopes exploration.

South African scientists this week announced that two local telescopes –- SAAO in Cape Town and SALT in the small Karoo town of Sutherland -- have for the first time detected gravitational waves that are a result of a merging of two neutron stars. According to previous research, the neutron stars - which are the smallest and densest known stars – collided 130 million light years ago, an event that resulted in gravitational waves being emitted and detectible for 100 seconds.

The collision also resulted in a kilonova explosion of light. Kilonova is an astronomical event that occurs in a binary system when two neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole merge into each other.

The discovery marks the birth of a new era in astrophysics, the first cosmic event observed in both gravitational waves and light. SALT and other SAAO telescopes have provided some of the very first data in what is turning out to be one of the most-studied astrophysical events ever.

SALT and SAAO are among the 70 ground- and space-based observatories that observed the cataclysmic explosion of two colliding neutron stars, immediately after their gravitational shock waves were detected by the United States-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory and the European-based Virgo detector. –

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