Journal: The Astrophysical Journal Letters
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When neutron stars collide
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A collision between neutron stars – small, dense stellar objects close to the end of their life-cycles – was observed for the first time, thanks to a worldwide network of telescopes.
A global collaboration, including
researchers from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, has now confirmed
gravitational waves, ripples in space-time, and electromagnetic radiation were emitted
following the collision of two neutron stars in the galaxy NGC 4993.
In August 2017, two gravitational-wave
detectors picked up a signal from 130 million light years away. Less than two
seconds later, a space telescope detected a burst of gamma rays from the same
source. Within an hour, multiple telescopes had picked up a short-lived surge
of ultraviolet, visible and infrared radiation that signalled an explosion called
a ‘kilonova’. Over the following fortnight, observatories detected X-ray and
radio wave emissions that indicated the burst was slowing down.
This series of events was the
long-awaited sign of neutron stars merging, and highlights the potential for
global collaborations to unveil more mysteries of the universe.
- The Astrophysical Journal Letters 848, L12 (2017) doi: 10.3847/2041-8213/aa91c9