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When Neutron Stars Collide: Scientists Spot Kilonova's Explosion from Epic 2016 Crash



Scientists recently spotted a gold-and-platinum factory in space, the remains of a massive collision of stellar corpses.

kilonova "or an epic explosion that probably happened when two very dense stars (called neutron stars ) slammed into each other.

The kilonova's power comes from colliding superdense neutron stars, where bizarre physics reigns. These objects are the remnants of large stars – once many times the mass of our sun – that exploded, leaving behind a dense core. Although neutron stars are only the size of a city, their size is about 1.4 times that of our sun. Because they are so dense, when these neutron stars collide Related: First Glimpse of Colliding Neutron Stars Yields Stunning Pics

Now, scientists think they have spotted a kilonova in previously collected data that had stumped observers at the time. Astronomers spotted a burst of ultrabright gamma-ray in the sky in August 201

6, but they did not understand what happened on.

LIGO happened. The incredibly productive laser interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (whose founding scientists had already won a Nobel Prize for a discovery made in 2015 ) made a historic observation in 2017 when it first direct observation of two neutron stars merging . Scientists tracked the event in every wavelength imaginable, as well as through the gravitational waves that showed disturbances in space.

Scientists revisited their strange 2016 data and had a pleasant surprise. Initially, the observations in 2016 did not match the models of the day predicted for a kilonova event ; 10 days, lead author Eleonora Troy, an astronomer and research scientist at the University of Maryland, said in a statement .

"We were all so disappointed, "Troja recalled their initial observations of the 2016 event. But LIGO's detection allowed them to look at the old data with new understanding. "[We] realized we had indeed caught a kilonova in 2016," Troy added. "It was a nearly perfect match."

In-infrared wavelengths, both the 2016 and 2017 events had similar luminosities (or intrinsic brightness) at exactly the same time. [19699004] 2016 event what sets the previous one is about the first few hours of the kilanova explosion. That's because NASA's Neil Gehrel's Swift Observatory tracked the 2016 gamma-ray burst just minutes after it was detected, watching observations of the 2017 burst were delayed by about 12 hours.

By comparing the two events, the students concluded that the 2016 observations thus likely of a kilonova formed by two colliding neutron stars. That said, they are now looking for a black hole and a neutron star and what they would look like

Troja and her colleagues plan to examine other past explosions inspired by this finding, and to create a fresh approach to future observations. In particular, they are focused on events that are strong in infrared light, which suggests that the explosion is producing heavy metals such as gold and platinum .

which was published on Aug. 27 in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace . Follow us on Twitter @ Spacedotcom and on Facebook .


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