Scientists observe neutron stars collision: Call it a beginning of a new era
the first time in history, scientists have detected the collision of two neutron stars, yielding new insights into physics, the structure of the universe, and the origin of elements such as gold and platinum.
Researchers recently announced this discovery, after they detected the evidence of the collision 130 million light years away on Aug 17, 2017. The collision was detected both through gravitational waves and through telescopes.
“This is an amazing, amazing discovery,” said David Reitze, Executive Director, LIGO Laboratory/ Caltech, told the press. The gravitational waves were first detected by the Virgo interferometer in Europe, then by both Laser Interferometer GravitationalWave Observatory (LIGO) locations in Louisiana and Washington state milliseconds later.
At around the same time, NASA’s Fermi telescope picked up a short gamma-ray burst - a pulse of light from the explosion made as the neutron stars merged. Neutron stars are extremely dense bodies made purely of neutrons and produced by the explosion of supernovae. They have about 1.5 times the mass of the sun, crushed into a body about the size of a medium-sized city, such as San Francisco, US. Scientists had theorized that these bodies merged, but this is the first time they have ever been spotted.
The findings are numerous. Using the data, LIGO and Virgo scientists have developed a new method for using the gravitational wave signals to measure the rate at which the universe is expanding, something scientists have been trying to do for a long time. The discovery also showed that the collisions of neutron stars produce neutron-rich heavy elements, something astronomers had suspected.
“This result provides definitive evidence for the first time that elements such as platinum, gold, and uranium are actually produced in these collisions,” Reitze said. Findings have been published in several scientific journals, including Science, Nature, Physical Review Letters and The Astrophysical Journal.