X-Rays From Neutron Star Merger Still Persist 1,000 Days After Collision

KEY POINTS

  • In 2017, scientists detected X-rays following the collision of two neutron stars
  • It was the first time that X-rays were observed following a gamma ray burst
  • The X-rays were stil observable even 2 1/2 years after the collision
  • Scientists offer possible explanations for the X-ray emission’s strange behavior

A team of researchers can still detect lingering X-rays from a neutron star collision that happened 1,000 days prior. The prolonged X-ray emission continues to puzzle scientists.

It was on Aug. 17, 2017, when the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) and Virgo first detected gravitational waves from the  merger of two neutron stars. Dubbed GW 170817, the event was observed by various telescopes from all over the world within hours of the first detection.

The initial burst was followed by a short-duration gamma ray-burst (GRB) and a slower kilonova. Nine days later, scientists detected an afterglow that was visible

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Astronomers find x-rays lingering years after landmark neutron star collision

UMD astronomers find x-rays lingering years after landmark neutron star collision
Researchers have continuously monitored the radiation emanating from the first (and so far only) cosmic event detected in both gravitational waves and the entire spectrum of light. The neutron star collision detected on August 17, 2017, is seen in this image emanating from galaxy NGC 4993. New analysis provides possible explanations for X-rays that continued to radiate from the collision long after other radiation had faded and way past model predictions. Credit: E. Troja

It’s been three years since the landmark detection of a neutron star merger from gravitational waves. And since that day, an international team of researchers led by University of Maryland astronomer Eleonora Troja has been continuously monitoring the subsequent radiation emissions to provide the most complete picture of such an event.


Their analysis provides possible explanations for X-rays that continued to radiate from the collision long after models predicted they would stop. The study also reveals

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Extremely Brilliant Source X-Rays Set to Revolutionize Science

The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France.

The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France.
Photo: S. Candé/ESRF

A new way of producing powerful X-ray beams—the brightest on Earth—is now making it possible to create 3D images of matter at astounding resolutions. This “Extremely Brilliant Source” officially opened last month at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France, and scientists are already using it to study the coronavirus behind covid-19. These X-ray beams will image the interiors of fossils, brains, batteries, and countless other interesting items down to the atomic scale, revealing unprecedented information and supercharging scientific research.

A typical medical X-ray, like you would get for a broken bone, can show doctors details about your particular fracture and the tissue around it. X-rays penetrate the body and are absorbed at different rates by different tissue; once they’ve passed through you, they hit a detector, creating the familiar black-and-white X-ray image. The Extremely Brilliant Source produces

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