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Seeing One Example Of Merging Neutron Stars Raises Five Incredible Questions

27 Oct 2017, 14:01 UTC
Seeing One Example Of Merging Neutron Stars Raises Five Incredible Questions

ESO

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Neutron stars, when they merge, can exhibit gravitational wave and electromagnetic signals simultaneously, unlike black holes. But the details of the merger are quite puzzling, as the theoretical models don’t quite match what we’ve observed. Image credit: Dana Berry / Skyworks Digital, Inc.Each discovery we make seems to raise even more questions. It’s a wonderful example of how science never ends.On August 17th, both the light and the gravitational wave signals from inspiraling-and-merging neutron stars reached Earth, where both were detected, for the first time, by humans. The inspiral phase was seen for approximately 30 seconds in the LIGO and Virgo detectors, lasting more than 100 times as long as some of the earlier gravitational wave signals. This was the closest direct gravitational wave signal ever seen, at just 130 million light years away. While the observations gave rise to a tremendous suite of information, from a gamma-ray burst just 1.7 seconds after the merger to an optical and ultraviolet counterpart that lasted for days before fading away to a radio afterglow, a new challenge arises: making theoretical sense of it all.Just hours after the gravitational wave signal arrived, optical telescopes were able to hone in on the galaxy home ...

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