First-seen Neutron Star Collision Crashes So Hard The Whole Universe Wobbles and Flings Out Gold

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Two stars slammed into each other sending out ‘huge amounts of gold’ in an alchemical explosion causing the universe to ‘wobble’ scientists said.

On 17th August, the neutron stars collided 130 million light years away, expelling ‘precious metals’ and elements such as ‘platinum and uranium’, in turn creating a ‘new chapter in astrophysics’, scientists said.

According to a report in the Independent, the crash has ‘confirmed theories about the origin of the mysterious neutron stars’.

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The gravitational wave signal, which has been named GW170817, was detected at 1.41pm UK time on 17th August, marking only the fifth time this type of wave have been spotted on Earth.

Scientists say they not only ‘heard’ this phenomenon by measuring vibrations in space-time, they used telescopes to ‘see light and radiation pouring out of the stellar fireball, called a kilonova’.

Every other wave detection in history has been ‘traced to black holes’ colliding in more than ‘a billion light years away’.

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The Independent writes the two stars, ‘each about 12 miles in diameter, stretched and distorted space-time as they spiralled towards each other and finally collided’.

Adding, like ‘ripples from a stone thrown in a pond, the gravitational waves fanned out across the universe at the speed of light’.

The ripples were picked up on Earth by detectors in Washington and Louisiana, which are operated by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

British LIGO scientist Professor BS Sathyaprakash, from the University of Cardiff, said:

"The 12 hours that followed are inarguably the most exciting hours of my scientific life. This event marks a turning point in observational astronomy and will lead to a treasure trove of scientific results."

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The origins of gold, along with many heavy elements has been a mystery for a long time, but recent evidence suggests colliding neutron stars could well be involved in their creation.

LIGO’s detectors, consisting of L-shaped tunnels with arms 2.5 miles (4km) long, use laser beams bouncing off mirrors to measure movement across a distance 10,000 times smaller than the width of a proton, the kernel of an atom.

Dr Samantha Oates, also from the University of Warwick, said: 

"This discovery has answered three questions that astronomers have been puzzling for decades: what happens when neutron stars merge? What causes the short duration gamma-ray bursts? Where are the heavy elements, like gold, made?

In the space of about a week all three of these mysteries were solved."

The discovery has also ‘solved the mystery of what creates short wave gamma ray bursts which are picked up on Earth and could help pinpoint how fast the universe is expanding’, according to The Telegraph.

Her colleague Dr Danny Steeghs said it is a ‘new chapter in The new findings were published in research papers in the journals Nature, Nature Astronomy and Science.

And professor Laura Cadonati, from Georgia Institute of Technology, US, said:

"This detection has genuinely opened the doors to a new way of doing astrophysics.

I expect it will be remembered as one of the most studied astrophysical events in history."

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It is being hailed as the first known instance of multi-messenger astrophysics: one source in the universe emitting two kinds of waves, gravitational and electromagnetic.

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To learn more about the event, check out this PBS video below: