Friday, October 20, 2017


Big news from the cosmos – the collision of two neutron stars.  Some people are not fascinated by what’s happening way out there beyond the beyond.  But I am.  I don’t understand a lot, the universe is more than I can get my head around, and I know we know very little.  Still, I love the stuff.  And in August scientists followed gravitational waves to see the collision, something they’d never seen before.

A neutron star is what’s left after a massive star explodes in a supernova at the end of its life.  It then collapses into an extremely dense core.  How dense?  A sugar-cube-sized portion of a neutron star would weigh about a billion tons, about the same weight as Mt. Everest.  How large?  A neutron star is about the same size as Manhattan.  Like I say, it’s hard to even conceive of this.

Neutron stars, while common, are usually too small and dark to see with telescopes.  Many stars are binary – two stars that orbit each other.  In this case we had a binary neutron star spiraling into each other until they collided and merged.  When this happens, what looks like a star quickly appears, then disappears.  So seeing the event is a crapshoot.  But in August they hit the jackpot.  The detectable visible light lasted only a few days.

They call it a kilonova because it is about a thousand times more powerful than a supernova.  Scientists also say that colliding neutron stars produce the precious metals of our universe, like gold.  I wouldn’t know.  I just know it fascinates me!


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