Colliding Stars, Detailed By New Computer Simulations

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After the collision between two neutron stars was depicted in a 3-D computer model by the scientists from the University of Alberta, the researchers shed more light on colliding stars thanks to the new computer simulations.

“The collision creates heavy elements including gold and lead,” explained Rodrigo Fernandez, who collaborated with an international team of researchers using the supercomputers of the US National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center and the data gathered during the collision of two neutron stars that the scientists observed in August of 2017.

“We also saw for the first time a gamma-ray burst from two neutron stars colliding. There’s a large amount of science coming out of that discovery,” Fernandez added.

Neutron stars are the densest celestial bodies in the Universe as they pack more mass than the Sun in a city-sized orb. When two neutron stars collide, a phenomenon which is known as Kilonova, a flash of light and debris takes place as the matter explodes outward.

Colliding Stars, Detailed By New Computer Simulations

“While our results do not fully reconcile all discrepancies, they bring the numbers closer together. It was expected that we could find jets, but this is the first time we’ve been able to model this in enough detail to see this effect emerge,” Fernandez explained.

“Among the processes at work, the main culprit is actually the magnetic field acting on the matter. We know the equations that describe that process, but the only way that we can properly describe them is in 3-D. So, not only do you have to run the simulation for a long time you also have to model it in three dimensions, which is computationally very expensive. The simulation’s technical aspects are impressive from a scientific standpoint because the interactions are so complex,” added Fernandez.

In short, thanks to new and improved computer simulations, scientists shed more light on colliding stars, more specifically, on the merger of two neutron stars the astronomers recorded in 2017.


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