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Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy Receives National Science Foundation Grant
 
BROWNSVILLE, TEXASAUGUST 20, 2013  The National Science Foundation has awarded The University of Texas at Brownsville’s Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy the grant “USA-Argentina Collaboration: Developing an Astronomical Site for Multimessenger Astronomy in Cerro Macon, Argentina.”
 
The NSF Office of International Science and Engineering made this award under the funding opportunity “Catalyzing New International Collaborations.”
 
“This is the start of a new and exciting venture,” said Dr. Mario C. Diaz, Director of the Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy and a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Science, Mathematics and Technology. “If we succeed we may have the opportunity to observe very rare and remote cataclysmic events. These events could be the furnaces where the heaviest and less abundant chemical elements we found in the universe are made. They could also be the most common source of gravitational waves. And this success will let us watch and listen at the same time to a major chord of the large cosmic symphony.”
 
Dr. Juan Raymundo Iglesias is Associate Professor and Chair of the university’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences.Physics students work in the Arecibo Remote Command Center at The University of Texas at Brownsville.
The goal of this project is to establish a partnership between American and Argentine astronomers to build and operate an astronomical facility in Cordon Macon, a mountain located in the Atacama highlands of Northwestern Argentina. The Atacama plateau is the driest place in the world, making it ideal for astronomical observations.
 
The facility would be dedicated to observe and study astronomical phenomena like explosions of massive stars and the collision of pairs of neutron stars. These rare cataclysmic collisions are most likely associated with the emission of very energetic particles called gamma ray bursts and could well be the origin of the production of heavy elements found only in small amounts on earth like gold. The radioactive glow of these explosions could be detected as what astronomers have called a kilonova and also be a source of gravitational waves that could travel far away and be detected on earth with very powerful lasers detectors like LIGO observations.
 
Observatories like these could be helpful to make simultaneous observations of these events with different instruments and confirm gravitational wave detections.
 
The grant will pay for travel to Argentina by scientists and students from The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas A&M University, the American institutions partnering in this collaboration with Argentine astronomers.
 
For more information, contact Dr. Mario C. Diaz, Director of the Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy at 956-882-6690 or Mario@phys.utb.edu. 

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