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Curated by RSF Research Staff

Neutron Star Collision Lights Up the Sky

Neutron stars – the end state of stars sustained by the degeneracy pressure of neutrons – are not truly understood. The collision of two such stars is thought to bring clarity to our understanding – which up until now is only inferred from the observed electromagnetic (EM) radiation and/or pulses from the neutron star and surrounding material.

Last year gravity waves were detected for the first time and subsequently inferred to be produced from the collision of two black holes – now, in an announcement made by the National Science Foundation the gravitational waves produced from the collision of two neutron stars has been detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). As well, observations of this collision have been detected from ground based and space based observatories across the EM spectrum. Not only does this confirm the location and the source of the gravity waves but preliminary analysis also reveals the results of the collision and the possible source of heavy elements – including gold.

This is exciting times indeed and “will go down in the history of astronomy” says Edo Berger who is optimistic about future observations – predicting at least 1-2 a month.

This has huge implications for our understanding of stellar formation and evolution and as well the nature of black holes. The question being do black holes exist in the very fabric of spacetime – are they the attractors that form structure – or are they the result of the end state or collapse of a star or galaxy as is the standard view?



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