Distance is one of the most challenging properties to measure in astronomy – it is bootstrapped from nearby objects like the Sun and planets all the way out to galaxies and quasars. The Pleiades, a nearby star cluster, had served as a cornerstone for astronomical distance derivations and set the scale for other clusters.

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Until this year, astronomers have only been able to indirectly determine the presence of gravitational waves -- tiny, wave-like shifts of space and time -- through the measurements of decaying orbits of neutron stars. In January 2016, the LIGO collaboration announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves from a system of black holes orbiting and colliding together. Read More