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A Nearby Neutron Star Collision Could Cause Calamity on Earth

A long time ago in a galaxy far away two neutron stars collided and created a spectacular light show shown above known as a “kilonova,” a hot, dense expanding cloud of debris that shook the universe, emitting some 200 million suns’ worth of energy as perturbations in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves.



For weeks much of the world’s astronomical community watched the kilonova as it slowly faded from view. Such collisions are thought to produce much of the universe's gold, platinum and other elements heavier than iron. But they can also have catastrophic consequences for any nearby habitable planets. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, CI Lab).

After billions of years spent slowly circling each other in their last moments the two degenerate stars spiraled around each other thousands of times before finally smashing together at a significant fraction of light-speed, likely creating a black hole reported John Wenz in Scientific American. "The merger was so violent it shook the universe, emitting some 200 million suns’ worth of energy as perturbations in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves. Those waves propagated out from the merger like ripples on a pond, eventually washing over Earth—and into our planet’s premiere gravitational-wave detectors, the U.S.-built LIGO and European-built Virgo observatories.

Read more here.


Image: An illustration of a “kilonova,” a hot, dense expanding cloud of debris produced by the collision of two neutron stars. Such collisions are thought to produce much of the universe's gold, platinum and other elements heavier than iron. But they can also have catastrophic consequences for any nearby habitable planets. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, CI Lab

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