Space is such a vast place full of mysteries and significant facts. As time passes and technology advances, astronomers continue to surprise us with discoveries. Today we are going to talk about an epic observation made by astronomers on the 25th of April 2019. More specifically, about the identification of gravitational waves caused by a neutron stars collision.
Let’s start with the gravitational waves. What are they? They are disturbances in the curvature of spacetime generated by accelerated masses that propagate as waves outward from their source at the speed of light. Moving forward to neutron stars, which are created when giant stars die in supernovas and their cores collapse, with the protons and electrons essentially melting into each other to form neutrons, we are on our way to discover the full picture.
Why is this discovery significant?
Astronomers searching for gravitational waves have observed a new collision between two neutron stars. The two neutron stars around 520 million light-years away came together and merged into a single object. The newly formed object is dubbed GW190425 and took us a step further in understanding the cosmical collision.
“The source of GW190425 represents a previously undetected type of astrophysical system,” the researchers wrote in their paper, submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters and not yet peer-reviewed.
The first binary neutron star collision event, dubbed GW170817, was detected back in August 2017, and the new cosmical collision event has confirmed the data collected from the early detection.
“We have detected a second event consistent with a binary neutron star system, and this is an important confirmation of the August 2017 event that marked an exciting new beginning for multi-messenger astronomy two years ago,” said physicist and Virgo Spokesperson Jo van den Brand of Maastricht University in the Netherlands.
Theories on neutron stars collisions
Multi-messenger astronomy is astronomy based on the coordinated observation and interpretation of disparate “messenger” signals. Interplanetary probes can visit objects within the Solar System, but beyond that, information must rely on “extrasolar messengers.”
These detections could contribute to a better understanding of how binary neutron stars form. At the moment, experts have come out with two possibilities. The first theory that the two massive stars are born, live and die together.
The second theory could be that they attract each other in orbit in the later years. Astronomers have yet to discover how GW190425 was created. What we do know for sure is that by studying the GW190425 and GW170817, astronomers will get some answers about this weird mass gap.