A Scientist Might Have Just Identified Another Neutron Star Merger

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According to a new study, which was published on Tuesday in the Nature Communications journal, the extremely powerful mergers of neutron stars may not be a rare event in the universe after all.

GW170817 – the first documented neutron-star merger

An unusual event has been detected last October by a team of scientists – two neutron stars collided, generating light and gravitational waves. Since this event was observed on August 17th, 2017, the researchers named it GW170817. Until now, this was the only documented case of neutron-star merger, but a new discovery means that GW170817 may not be alone anymore.

Second possible detection of a neutron-star merger

Another event in the form of a powerful burst of high-energy gamma rays was observed by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope in January 2015, later named GRB 150101B. The close analysis of this event and GW170817 shows that they share some key similarities. For example, they created surprisingly short-lived and faint gamma-ray bursts, visible light in a shade of bright-blue lasting for many days and X-ray emissions that were more protracted. Moreover, both GW170817 and GRB 150101B originated from elliptical galaxies, with stars that are few billion years old and with no noticeable star-forming areas. All things considered, the scientists believe that GRB 150101B was also the result of a neutron-star merger.

GRB 150101B could be a merger between a neutron star and a black hole

The team, however, did not detect GRB 150101B’s gravitational waves, therefore the mass of the two objects cannot be calculated. According to the scientists, there is a possibility that the two objects that were involved in the merger are a neutron star and a black hole. Hendrik Van Eerten, co-author of the study and a scientist at the University of Bath in the UK, said: “We need more cases like GW170817 that combine gravitational wave and electromagnetic data to find an example between a neutron star and black hole. Such a detection would be the first of its kind.”


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