Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Gravitational Waves Detected from Neutron-Star Collision Ushers in New Era of Astronomy

Illustration of merging neutron stars via Robin Dienel; Carnegie Institution for Science

 The US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo) has announced that they have witnessed the collision of a pair of neutron stars. The event was marked by ripples through the fabric of space-time known as gravitational waves and a flash brighter than a billion suns.
 The collision was detected by Ligo's twin detectors in Louisiana and Washington state. The ensuing hours saw 70 space-and ground-based telescopes focusing their attention on the red-tinged afterglow, making this the first first cosmic event to be 'seen' in both gravitational waves and light.
 “Neutron stars are at this sweet spot between a star and a black hole,” said Prof Andreas Freise, a Ligo project scientist at the University of Birmingham. “When two of them collide, we expect them to immediately collapse into a black hole, leaving behind a bit of dust and stuff.”
 David Shoemaker, spokesman for the Ligo Scientific Collaboration, said: “It’s [probably] the first observation of a black hole being created where there was none before, which is pretty darn cool.”

D.A. Coulter, et al.

Neutron stars are the smallest, densest stars known to exist. These stars are on average 12 miles wide, with a teaspoon of neutron star having a mass of about a billion tons. These stars are made up of a soup of pure neutrons, with a crust 10 billion times stronger than steel.
 “This is the first real confirmation that heavy elements such as gold, platinum and uranium are either solely or predominantly produced in binary neutron star collisions,” said Dave Reitze, executive director at Ligo. “The wedding band on your finger or the gold watch you’re wearing was most likely produced a billion years ago by two neutron stars colliding. That’s pretty cool.”

Read the full story at: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/oct/16/astronomers-witness-neutron-stars-collide-global-rapid-response-event-ligo

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