BEACON TRANSCRIPT – The collision and merger of two neutron stars is causing waves of excitement here on Earth, and gold up in space. For the first time ever, scientists have been able to spot the gravitational waves and light produced by a kilonova.
This is the name given to a cosmic event which basically sees the collision and subsequent merger of two neutron stars. These latter are the dead cores of stars that have stopped burning fuel.
Although the phenomenon was captured by telescopes all over the world on August 17, news about this event only emerged this week, on October 16.
The Collision and Merger of the Two Neutron Stars and the Golden Shower They Create
A neutron star is the barren, leftover core of a much larger star that went out with a supernova explosion. The meeting of two such stars, followed by their merger, has come to be named a kilonova.
Researchers believe these to be rare events, but ones that can lead to the appearance of heavy elements such as platinum and even gold. Some of them have even made their way down to Earth.
The kilonova observed and captured by astronomers on August 17 came from the NGC 4993 galaxy. This latter is located some 130 million light years away from our planet.
The date marks a very special event as it was the first time that astronomers recorded both the gravitational waves and the gamma-ray bursts released by the collision and merger. This led to its being called both GW170817 and GRB 170817, each one denominating one specific aspect of the phenomenon.
“The detection of a gravitational-wave source’s light has revealed details of the event that cannot be determined from gravitational waves alone. The multiplier effect of study with many observatories is incredible,” states Paul Hertz, the NASA Astrophysics Division Director.
Many studies and research are expected to analyze and follow this first time ever event. Some of them, for example, will try to establish how much gold was released in space. Others will target the release of the gravitational waves or the gamma-ray burst.
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