Wednesday, 22 November, 2017

Neutron Stars Collided, So Are They a Black Hole Now?

Dawn of an Era: Astronomers Hear and See Cosmic Collision Scientists witnessed a neutron star 'mashup' for the first time – and it transformed our understanding of the universe
Howard Terry | 18 October, 2017, 00:43

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which is based in the US, the Virgo detector (based in Europe) were behind the discovery, with 70 different observatories.

Four times over the past two years, astronomers detected gravitational waves emanating from merging black holes.

Black holes make strong gravitational waves, but the neutron star collision created a louder wave because of its closer proximity to earth, Brown said.

"On that morning, all of our dreams came true".

The initial detection was immediately followed by a burst of gamma-rays detected by two space observatories, NASA's Fermi satellite and the European Space Agency's Integral satellite.

"In a sprawling follow-up campaign involving about one-quarter of the world's professional astronomers, observatories in space and on the Earth have detected radiation in all wavelengths from gamma rays to radio waves". The neutron stars merged in a galaxy called NGC 4993, located about 130 million light years from Earth in the constellation Hydra.

Troja has good reason to believe the stars did form a black hole. While we've suspected neutron stars to be key to producing these elements in space, that hypothesis now looks a whole lot more convincing. On Monday, it was announced that they had seen and heard a pair of dead stars collide, giving them their first glimpse of the violent process by which most of the gold and silver in the universe was created. From the 1920s scientists knew stars acted like chemical factories - building almost everything on the chemists periodic table - but they didn't know how. He estimates neutron star mergers are responsible for half of the elements heavier than iron in the unive.

Unlike black hole mergers, which are void of visible light, neutron stars can be observed with regular telescopes. The analysis of the spectrum of this luminous point will indicate that it corresponds to the dispersion of very hot atomic nuclei of heavy (gold, lead, etc). "The gravitational waves told us about the neutron stars coalescing, we confirmed it was the source of the gamma ray burst, and then we saw the light from the kilonova". The results were described in a series of papers appearing in various journals such as Science and Nature. TOROS was among the observatories that automatically sprung into action on August 17.

"Fermi's observation of a gamma-ray burst at almost the same time added to the excitement and urgency of the moment", Weinstein said.

Nine days after the gravitational waves were detected by LIGO and Virgo, Troja's team finally picked up a faint X-ray signal - one so weak only the space-based Chandra X-ray Observatory could detect it. So astrophysicists at LIGO and VIRGO detected the motion from the collision, and astronomers saw the flash of light. Though small - only 10 or 20 kilometres across - they comprise such a dense neutron soup that they weigh more than the Sun.

"This has implications for broad issues in stellar evolution such as how the heavy elements are produced, the mechanism for gamma-ray bursts, detailed internal properties and maximum mass for neutron stars before they must collapse to black holes", he said.

Scientists are thrilled to find out what other mysteries multi-messenger astronomy might unravel, but they're also patting themselves and their colleagues on the backs.

As a bonus, the near-simultaneous arrival of the LIGO signal and the gamma ray burst confirms that gravitational waves travel at the speed of light, as predicted by the theory of relativity, and provides a new method to determine the Hubble constant, which measures the rate of expansion of the universe.

After decades of theorizing, we're now actually in a new era of astronomy, defined by the capability to peer into the universe through multiple, distinct lenses. "Even at [full] design sensitivity and at its greatest astronomical reach, we thought there was only around a 50 per cent chance to see a gravitational wave associated with gamma-ray burst". "I was completely shocked", Brown said.

"Gravitational astronomy is just the beginning", he said.

NSF director France A. Córdova also hailed the result, saying: "This discovery realizes a long-standing goal many of us have had: that is, to simultaneously observe rare cosmic events using both traditional as well as gravitational-wave observatories".

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