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Deep Space X-Ray Burst Gives Astronomers New Signal to Detect Neutron Star Mergers

18 Apr 2019, 13:20 UTC
Deep Space X-Ray Burst Gives Astronomers New Signal to Detect Neutron Star Mergers
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An international team of astronomers, including faculty and alumni from UNLV, has discovered a new way to spot when collisions occur in distant galaxies between two neutron stars – incredibly dense, city-sized celestial bodies that possess the most powerful magnetic fields in the universe.A bright burst of X-rays captured by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in a galaxy located 6.6 billion light years from Earth likely signaled the merger of two neutron stars into a new, heavier and freakishly magnetic neutron star – known as a magnetar – and offered astronomers a rare glimpse into how neutron stars are made. The team’s findings were published in the April 11 issue of the journal Nature.When neutron stars merge they produce jets of high-energy particles and radiation. If the jet is pointed toward Earth, a flash, or burst, of gamma rays can be detected. If the jet is not pointed in our direction, scientists look for other signals, including the detection of gravitational waves.With the observation of a bright burst of X-rays, astronomers have now found another signal, one that validates predictions first made in 2013 by UNLV astrophysicist Bing Zhang, a member of the research team and one of the study’s corresponding ...

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