Mysterious X-rays could possibly be kilonova “afterglow” from 2017 neutron star merger

Artist's representation of the merger of two neutron stars to form a black hole (hidden within bright bulge at center of image). The merger generates opposing, high-energy jets of material (blue) that heat up material around the stars, making it emit X-rays (reddish clouds).

Enlarge / Artist’s illustration of the merger of two neutron stars to type a black gap (hidden inside vibrant bulge at heart of picture). The merger generates opposing, high-energy jets of fabric (blue) that warmth up materials across the stars, making it emit X-rays (reddish clouds). (credit score: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss)

Again in 2017, astronomers detected a phenomenon referred to as a “kilonova”: the merger of two neutron stars accompanied by highly effective gamma-ray bursts. Three and a half years later, astrophysicists noticed mysterious X-rays they imagine could possibly be the very first detection of a kilonova “afterglow,” in accordance with a brand new paper printed in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Alternatively, what the astrophysicists noticed could possibly be the primary statement of matter falling into the black gap that fashioned after the merger.

As we have reported beforehand, LIGO detects gravitational waves by way of laser interferometry. This technique makes use of high-powered lasers to measure tiny adjustments within the distance between two objects positioned kilometers aside. (LIGO has detectors in Hanford, Washington, and in Livingston, Louisiana. A 3rd detector in Italy, referred to as Superior VIRGO, got here on-line in 2016.) Having three detectors means scientists can triangulate and higher pinpoint the place within the night time sky any telltale chirps are coming from.

Along with seven extra binary black gap mergers, LIGO’s second run, from November 30, 2016, to August 25, 2017, detected a binary neutron-star merger with a simultaneous gamma-ray burst and alerts in the remainder of the electromagnetic spectrum. The occasion is now referred to as GW170817. These alerts included the telltale signatures of heavy components—notably gold, platinum and uranium—created by the collision. Most lighter components are solid within the death-throe explosions of huge stars referred to as supernovas, however astronomers have lengthy theorized that the heavier components would possibly originate in kilonovas produced when two neutron stars collide.

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