When two neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole merge, the extreme energy release launches ultra-relativistic jets and creates ripples in space-time. We can detect these even from vast distances as short gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and gravitational-waves. The intense pressure of the merger allows very heavy elements to form (events like these are likely the main production sites of gold and platinum in the universe). We detect the radioactive glow of these newly-formed heavy elements as a ‘kilonova’. Dr Gompertz uses the combined ‘multi-messenger’ information from short GRBs, kilonovae, and gravitational-waves to learn about our universe, including just how influential mergers are in producing gold, and how matter behaves in extreme gravity.
Dr Gompertz is a member of a number of transient hunting collaborations and consortia. These include:
- The Gravitational-wave Optical Transient Observer (GOTO) team, where he coordinates the GRB science working group. GOTO is a wide-field search/survey telescope on La Palma, Spain (and soon Siding Spring, Australia) designed to rapidly respond to gravitational-wave alerts from the LIGO, Virgo and KAGRA collaboration and hunt for associated transients.
- ENGRAVE collaboration, an international team of European astronomers dedicated to discovering electromagnetic counterparts to gravitational-wave detections.
- The STARGATE collaboration, dedicated to following up GRBs with ESO facilities
- The Vera Rubin LSST consortium. Rubin is a next-generation wide field facility that is expected to achieve 90% completeness for kilonovae out to 200 Mpc. The telescope is due to come online in 2023.
- The THESEUS consortium. THESEUS is a European Space Agency M-class GRB mission concept being proposed for launch in 2037.