Neutron Star Merger Atacama Large Millimeter Array ALMA
Scientists have for the first time ever observed a neutron star merger in millimeter-wavelength light using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), which is located in the high-altitude Atacama Desert in Chile. This array consists of 66 radio telescopes, making it the world’s largest radio telescope.

GRBs (gamma ray bursts), the brightest and most energetic explosions in the universe, are capable of emitting more energy in a matter of seconds than even our sun uring its entire lifetime. This neutron star merger, classified as GRB 211106A, belongs to a GRB subclass known as short-duration gamma ray bursts, which are responsible for creating the heaviest elements in the universe, such as platinum and gold. Since short-duration GRBs typically last only a few tenths of a second, none have been detected in millimeter wavelengths until now. Speaking of mergers, astrophysicists also spotted a black hole and neutron star merging for the first time ever.

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This short gamma-ray burst was the first time we tried to observe such an event with ALMA. Afterglows for short bursts are very difficult to come by, so it was spectacular to catch this event shining so brightly. After many years observing these bursts, this surprising discovery opens up a new area of study, as it motivates us to observe many more of these with ALMA and other telescope arrays in the future,” said Wen-fai Fong, Northwestern’s principal investigator of the ALMA program.