The Kilonova as Observed at Las Cumbres Observatory

Join us on Saturday, November 11, for an introduction to the Las Cumbres Observatory, a unique research institute. Dr. Curtis McCully, a postdoctoral researcher at the Las Cumbres Observatory, will speak on the Observatory’s mission, it’s unique research model, and highlights of recent major discoveries to which the Observatory has contributed, in particularly, the October 16, 2017, announcement of “a kilonova, a new type of explosion in space.”

Abstract: In August, the LIGO and Virgo gravitional wave observatories detected their
first neutron star collision, which has been predicted to produce optical emission that could be seen with normal telescopes. We quickly began searching for the optical counterpart of the gravitational-wave signal using Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO), a unique followup facility ideally suited for observing fast astronomical transients. LCO consists of 20 telescopes at 6 sites around the world, working as one robotic, dynamically scheduled global network. Using LCO, we were able to detect the ensuing explosion, termed a “kilnova,” that was produced as the neutron stars coalesced. I will present our observations from LCO of the kilonova as it rose and faded in less than a week. I will also discuss its spectroscopic evolution and how this new type of cosmic explosion may be the source of the heavy elements like gold and platinum.

Light refreshments will be served. Please use the form below to RSVP.

Speaker: Curtis McCully, Ph. D.
Date: Saturday, November 11, 2017
Time: 1:00 pm.
Place: Channel Islands Boating Center
3880 Bluefin Circle, Oxnard, CA 93035 (Google Map)
Cost: Free

Dr. Curtis McCully is a Postdoctoral Scholar at Las Cumbres Observatory and University of California Santa Barbara. He completed his PhD in astrophysics at Rutgers University in May 2014 after receiving his Bachelors from Southern Nazarene University in 2008. Curtis is broadly interested in cosmology – specifically dark matter and dark energy – and how we can measure the universe using time-domain astronomy. He has studied the progenitors of Type Iax Supernovae, peculiar cousins to type Ia supernovae that were used to discover the acceleration of the expansion of the universe driven by dark energy, using the Hubble Space Telescope. He has also designed an analytic framework to include all of the matter between us and distant background sources in gravitational lensing. At Las Cumbres, Curtis is one of the builders of the Global Supernova Project and is in charge all data reduction from the observatory. Most recently, Curtis led spectroscopic follow-up of the collision of two neutron stars that produced the first kilonova ever to be detected.