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Astronomers Find a Golden Glow From a Distant Stellar Collision

31 Aug 2019, 06:59 UTC
Astronomers Find a Golden Glow From a Distant Stellar Collision
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On August 17, 2017, scientists made history with the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars. It was the first cosmic event detected in both gravitational waves and the entire spectrum of light, from gamma rays to radio emissions.The impact also created a kilonova--a turbocharged explosion that instantly forged several hundred planets' worth of gold and platinum. The observations provided the first compelling evidence that kilonovae produce large quantities of heavy metals, a finding long predicted by theory. Astronomers suspect that all of the gold and platinum on Earth formed as a result of ancient kilonovae created during neutron star collisions.Based on data from the 2017 event, first spotted by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), astronomers began to adjust their assumptions of how a kilonova should appear to Earth-bound observers. A team led by Eleonora Troja, an associate research scientist in the University of Maryland's Department of Astronomy, re-examined data from a gamma-ray burst spotted in August 2016 and found new evidence for a kilonova that went unnoticed during the initial observations.NASA's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory began tracking the 2016 event, named GRB160821B, minutes after it was detected. The early catch enabled the research team to ...

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