Multimessenger Astronomy

  • Released Monday, August 19th, 2019
  • Updated Tuesday, September 10th, 2019 at 12:00AM


This gallery brings together animations, visualizations, videos and still images relating to the growing field of “multimessenger” astronomy.

In the past century, humans have mastered how to detect light beyond what our eyes can see — unveiling secrets held in other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. More recently, we have developed detectors for other signals from the universe — particles ejected from black holes and other high-energy sources and even wiggles of space-time in the form of gravitational waves. This new capability of combining information from all of these different messengers to more completely understand a source is called multimessenger astronomy.

The four messengers astronomers study are light in all its forms, cosmic rays, neutrinos, and gravitational waves.

When an astronomical source varies slowly, astronomers can combine information from different messengers received at different times — sometimes even years apart — and still get a good picture of it. But many source types change rapidly with time. For them, it’s critical that observations occur simultaneously or within a short time span so that astronomers capture the properties of different messengers before the source changes. Astronomers call this “time domain” astronomy. Multimessenger time domain astronomy is a powerful new tool for exploring the cosmos.

Going multimessenger


Cosmic Rays


Gravitational Waves