UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — August 17, 2017 went down in the history of science as the day when a collision of neutron stars was first recorded. Having looked closely at the observations of past years, astronomers found out that they had already encountered a similar event. And at that time, intriguing details that escaped the observers in 2017 got into the frame.
Details are described in a scientific article published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society by an international scientific group.
The collision of neutron stars is a process that theorists have been interested in for decades. This cataclysm of matter is converted into e kzoticheskie state, only with enormous difficulty achieved in laboratories . In addition, such events, astronomers believe, created almost all the gold and platinum (and many other heavy metals) in the universe.
There are many other reasons why researchers want to know as much as possible about such “accidents.”
But until 2017, not a single event known to observers could be unambiguously classified as a collision of neutron stars. Experts suspected that at least some short gamma-ray bursts were caused by such disasters. But the experts did not have enough data for final conclusions.
On August 17, 2017, gravitational wave detectors for the first time recorded a signal that was clearly generated by a collision of neutron stars . The news instantly scattered across the scientific world . Astronomers hastily sent optical, x-ray, radio and gamma-ray telescopes to the right point in the sky. The tools really recorded the outbreak, and for the first time, scientists learned for certain what a similar cataclysm looks like.
This information allowed researchers to take a fresh look at data on some previous events. For example, about a short gamma-ray burst GRB 160821B, recorded, as the designation indicates, on August 21, 2016. This event was discovered by Swift, an orbital “gamma-ray burst hunter”, conducting observations in the gamma, x-ray, ultraviolet and optical ranges. Radio and infrared instruments and the famous Hubble also connected to the observations.
It is the observations in infrared rays that have become decisive for astronomers in the question of what process they are dealing with. The radiation power and its change over time exactly corresponded to the picture that was observed in 2017 and was expected by theorists for a collision of neutron stars.
As explained in a press release , the data on GRB 160821B is less detailed than on the event of August 17, 2017. However, tracking this gamma-ray burst began a few minutes after it was detected. At the same time, in 2017, observations began almost 12 hours after the collision. Therefore, in 2016, astronomers recorded the early stages of the process that eluded them during a historical event that occurred a year later.
So, the observations of 2017 did not allow us to determine exactly which object was formed as a result of the fusion of neutron stars. According to some studies, it was a new neutron star , while other experts claimed that it was a black hole .
During GRB 160821B, according to the authors, a neutron star with a strong magnetic field was formed, which quickly turned into a black hole.
Interestingly, the magnetic field of this object, when it was still a neutron star, was supposed to suppress the synthesis of gold, platinum and other heavy elements. However, infrared observations confirm that the “precious metals factory” was operating at full capacity. Now scientists have to explain this fact.
The authors also plan to look at other space disasters, the nature of which has not yet been established . Perhaps some of them will also turn out to be collisions of neutron stars.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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