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Neutron star merger confirms decades of predictions

Bringing some of the mysteries of the universe a little closer to home.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Fri Nov 03, 2017 9:19 pm

On Aug. 17, the Laser Interferometry Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected the fifth fingerprint of a massive disturbance in spacetime since LIGO began operations in September 2015. Unlike the first four sets of ripples, which reflected collisions between two black holes, the shape of these spacetime distortions suggested a collision between two neutron stars.

While black hole collisions produce almost no signature other than gravitational waves, the collision of neutron stars can be—and was—observed up and down the electromagnetic spectrum. "When neutron stars collide, all hell breaks loose," said Frans Pretorius, a Princeton physics professor. "They start producing a tremendous amount of visible light, and also gamma rays, X-rays, radio waves…."

Princeton researchers have been studying neutron stars and their astronomical signatures for decades.

The gravitational waves were the first evidence of the neutron star merger to arrive at Earth, followed by a gamma-ray burst that arrived 1.7 seconds later.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Fri Nov 03, 2017 9:20 pm

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Credit: Princeton University

This snapshot of the first milliseconds in the violent merger of two neutron stars, calculated and rendered by associate research scholar David Radice and collaborators, reveals the stars’ gravitational tidal effects on each other. In the next 10 milliseconds, they will merge into one rapidly rotating massive neutron star, then collapse into a black hole surrounded by a transient disk of material.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Fri Nov 03, 2017 9:22 pm



This artist’s impression video shows how two tiny but very dense neutron stars merge and explode as a kilonova. Such a very rare event is expected to produce both gravitational waves and a short gamma-ray burst, both of which were observed on 17 August 2017 by LIGO–Virgo and Fermi/INTEGRAL respectively.

Subsequent detailed observations with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and other telescopes all over the world have confirmed that this object, seen in the galaxy NGC 4993 about 130 million light-years from the Earth, is indeed a kilonova. These objects are the main source of very heavy chemical elements, such as gold and platinum, in the Universe.

 

 
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