loading page

Science AMA: We are the first people to observe neutron stars colliding that the LIGO team detected, we’re the Swope Discovery Team, ask us anything about supernovas, astrophysics, and, of course, neutron star collisions, AMA!
  • SwopeTeam ,
  • r/Science AMAs

Corresponding Author:swopeteam@thewinnower.com

Author Profile
r/Science AMAs
Author Profile


Hi Reddit! EDIT: And that’s all for us from the Swope Team! Thank you for the great questions. Sorry we couldn’t answer every one of them. And thank you for the reddit gold, even if it wasn’t made in a neutron star-neutron star collision. We are Ben Shappee, Maria Drout, Tony Piro, Josh Simon, Ryan Foley, Dave Coulter, and Charlie Kilpatrick, a group of astronomers from the Carnegie Observatories and UC Santa Cruz who were the first people ever to see light from two neutron stars colliding. We call ourselves the Swope Discovery Team because we used a telescope in Chile named after pioneering astronomer Henrietta Swope to find the light from the explosion that happened when the two stars crashed into each other over a hundred million years ago and sent gravitational waves toward Earth. You can read more about our discovery–just announced yesterday–here: https://carnegiescience.edu/node/2250 Or watch a video of us explaining what gravitational waves and neutron stars even are here: https://vimeo.com/238283885 We also took the first spectra of light from the event. Like prisms separate sunlight into the colors of the rainbow, spectra separate the light from a star or other object into its component wavelengths. Studying these spectra can help us answer a longstanding astrophysics mystery about the origin of certain heavy elements including gold and platinum. You can watch a video about our spectra here: https://vimeo.com/238284111 We’ll be back at 11 am ET to answer your questions, ask us anything! Dr. Ben Shappee: I just completed a Hubble, Carnegie-Princeton Fellowship at the Carnegie Observatories and am mere weeks into a faculty position at University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy. I’m a founding member of the ASAS-SN supernova-hunting project. Dr. Maria Drout: I am currently a NASA Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at the Carnegie Observatories and I also hold a research associate position at the University of Tornoto. I study supernovae and other exotic transients. Dr. Tony Piro: I am a theoretical astrophysicist and the George Ellery Hale Distinguished Scholar in Theoretical Astrophysics at the Carnegie Observatories. I am the P.I. of the Swope Supernova Survey. Dr. Josh Simon: I am a staff scientist at the Carnegie Observatories. I study nearby galaxies, which help me answer questions about dark matter, star formation, and the process of galaxy evolution. Dr. Ryan Foley: I am a a faculty member at UC Santa Cruz. I represented the Swope Team at the LIGO and NSF press conference about the neutron star collision discovery on Monday in Washington, DC. Dr. Charlie Kilpatrick: I am a postdoc at UC Santa Cruz. I specialize in supernovae. Almost Dr. Dave Coulter: I am a second year graduate student at UC Santa Cruz. I am a founding member of the Swope Supernova Survey. EDIT: Here’s our team! https://imgur.com/gallery/8lZyg