Astronomers at the University of Warwick had to wait more than 100 days to see the light from the first confirmed neutron star merger. It hid behind the glare of the sun, but after patiently waiting for it to reappear, they saw a jet of material streaming out from merged star.
This discovery confirms scientists’ predictions of the aftermath of neutron star mergers.
Astronomers first saw it in August 2017 with the help of the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Adv-LIGO) and through Gamma Ray Burst (GRB) observations. They saw it in a galaxy named NGC 4993, and the binary neutron star merger (called GW170817) occurred 130 million light-years away.
It was the first time when a neutron star merger was seen and confirmed by visual astronomy.
The merged star hid behind the glare of our sun, and it emerged 100 days later. Then, the research team at the University of Warwick used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe it. They saw that the star was still generating a beam of light which started to spread out to our planet’s direction.
The observations and the details in the study can be found on the website Nature Astronomy. The study is entitled “The optical afterglow of the short gamma-ray burst associated with GW170817,” and it was published on 2 July.
“Jets of Material Traveling Close to the Speed of Light”
The lead author of the study is Dr. Joe Lyman, Department of Physics (University of Warwick). He explains:
“Early on, we saw visible light powered by radioactive decay of heavy elements, over a hundred days later and this has gone, but now we see a jet of material, ejected at an angle to us, but at almost of the speed of light. This is quite different than some people have suggested, that the material wouldn’t come out in a jet, but in all directions.”
As we mentioned before, they observations confirm the previous predictions. Dr. Gavin Lamb is one of the authors of the paper, and with the Department of Physics and Astronomy (University of Leicester), saying that this type of event can reveal more information on the structure of the jets of material:
“As the afterglow brightens we are seeing deeper into the jet structure and probing the fastest components. This will help us understand how these jets of material, travelling close to the speed of light, are formed and how they are accelerated to these phenomenal velocities.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.