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Astronomy’s ‘Rosetta Stone’: Merging Neutron Stars Seen With Both Gravitational Waves And Light (Synopsis)

16 Oct 2017, 14:01 UTC
Astronomy’s ‘Rosetta Stone’: Merging Neutron Stars Seen With Both Gravitational Waves And Light (Synopsis)
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

“It’s becoming clear that in a sense the cosmos provides the only laboratory where sufficiently extreme conditions are ever achieved to test new ideas on particle physics. The energies in the Big Bang were far higher than we can ever achieve on Earth. So by looking at evidence for the Big Bang, and by studying things like neutron stars, we are in effect learning something about fundamental physics.” -Martin Rees
When the Advanced LIGO detectors turned on in 2015, it shook up the world when they detected their first event: the merger of two quite massive black holes. Since that time, they’ve observed black hole-black hole mergers multiple times, with the VIRGO detector in Italy joining them for the fourth event. But this wasn’t what LIGO/VIRGO expected to see; rather, they were built to hunt for merging neutron stars that were much closer by.
Two merging neutron stars, as illustrated here, do spiral in and emit gravitational waves, but are much more difficult to detect than black holes. Hence, they can only be seen if they’re close by. However, unlike black holes, they should eject a fraction of their mass back into the Universe, where it composes most of the ...

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