Observing Neutron Star Collisions Offers Insight to the Expansion of the Universe
By gathering measurements from neutron star collisions, astronomers have been able to further their understanding of how the universe is expanding.
By gathering measurements from neutron star collisions, astronomers have been able to further their understanding of how the universe is expanding. Using the Hubble Space Telescope, they were able to identify the type of radiation emitted when two neutron stars, with massive gravitational forces, merge.
The majority of stars contain light elements such as hydrogen or oxygen. This type of star is classified as a normal star, and the death of these stars is marked by a supernova explosion, with its matter quickly fading away into space. Neutron stars, on the other hand, are incredibly dense, and they result from supernovas that happen with stars larger than eight times the mass of our sun. Since neutron stars are so dense, their gravitational force is extremely strong, making the merger of two of them a cataclysmic event.
Collisions between neutron stars are known to emit two different forms of radiation, which the researchers detected in November 2020. The first is a relatively faint, rapidly fading emission known as kilonova, and the second is an even faster infrared signal referred to as macronova. Astronomers believe that kilonova carries information about the formation of heavy elements, like gold and uranium, while macronova is the result of the merger of two neutron stars, allowing for the understanding of the expansion of the universe.
The data collected by the Hubble telescope is crucial for furthering our understanding of the formation of heavy elements, as well as the accelerating expansion of the universe. The insights derived from this data will allow us to better comprehend the history of the universe, and how it will be further shaped by its expansion.