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Neutron Star Collisions – Where Gold, Platinum & other heavy elements are made

The LIGO-Virgo Collaboration plus leaders of telescope project teams gave an interesting press conference today in Washington.

It was to announce the results of the Gravitational Wave that was detected on the 17th August (GW170917).  This latest detection was noted at our meeting last Monday. 
It turns out that this event was the merger of 2 neutron stars, called a kilonova, and, as it was also detected by the Virgo array, it allowed the location of the source to be estimated.  As a result telescopes, both earth and space based, were able to identify the precise event and examine it from radio waves, through visible light to X rays.
It is some 130 M light years away in the galaxy NGC4993, an elliptical galaxy in the southern constellation Hydra.  Data analysis to date indicates that the neutron stars were formed when the universe was 2 M years old, and after orbiting each other for 11 B years collided 130 M years ago.  One speaker also estimated that the amount of gold, platinum and other heavy elements was 16,000 times the mass of the earth; one panel member then referred to the merger as a “Bling Event”

This is the start of what the press conference termed multi-messenger astronomy, ie EMR (inc visible light) + Neutrino + Gravitational waves.

If there is interest then we could use this event as the topic for the next Discussion Group meeting on the 13th November and look at the preliminary results.  If you would like for that then email me at  cosmology@AbergavennyAS.org.uk 

More info at the LIGO website HERE and many news sites.

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