Scientists witness huge cosmic crash

WASHINGTON (AP) — It was a faint signal, but it told of one of the most violent acts in the universe, and it would soon reveal secrets of the cosmos, including how gold was created.

Astronomers around the world reacted to the signal quickly, focusing telescopes located on every continent and even in orbit to a distant spot in the sky.

What they witnessed in mid-August and revealed Monday was the long-ago collision of two neutron stars — a phenomenon California Institute of Technology’s David H. Reitze called “the most spectacular fireworks in the universe.”

“When these things collide, all hell breaks loose,” he said.

Measurements of the light and other energy emanating from the crash have helped scientists explain how planet-killing gamma ray bursts are born, how fast the universe is expanding, and where heavy elements like platinum and gold come from.

“This is getting everything you wish for,” said Syracuse University physics professor Duncan Brown, one of more than 4,000 scientists involved in the blitz of science that the crash kicked off. “This is our fantasy observation.”

It started in a galaxy called NGC 4993, seen from Earth in the Hydra constellation. Two neutron stars, collapsed cores of stars so dense that a teaspoon of their matter would weigh 1 billion tons, danced ever faster and closer together until they collided, said Carnegie Institution astronomer Maria Drout.

The crash, called a kilonova, generated a fierce burst of gamma rays and a gravitational wave, a faint ripple in the fabric of space and time, first theorized by Albert Einstein.

The signal arrived on Earth on Aug. 17 after traveling 130 million light-years. A light-year is 5.88 trillion miles.  MORE

h/t Joe6Pak

19 Comments on Scientists witness huge cosmic crash

  1. The collision happened on August 17, but scientists withheld the news until now for fear that looters would show up looking for the gold, and spoil their observations.

    Upon hearing that two stars had collided, Harvey Weinstein asked if either of them were attractive females, and would they be interested in a back rub?

  2. huge crash in the cosmos ?

    was it hillary falling over while carrying a cup of coffee when running down stairs in high heels looking over her shoulder talking to whoever was chasing her down the steps ?

    or just another failed book tour of hers ?

  3. This is big news in the astro-physicist community. I can’t pretend to know all they claim to have learned in this but I’m interested in reading about it in its simplist terms. Heck I’m still trying to grasp the concept of the rings around Uranus.

  4. And just how long does it take for the actual destruction of these 2 neutron stars to travel 130 million light years to get to Earth for scientists to discover this long, long ago cosmic event to happen? And how soon will the Discovery Channel send Todd Hoffman, Parker Schnable and crazy bearded every other word an obscenity Tony Beets out there to start a cosmic gold rush? Ain’t ever going to happen not unless some genius can build an intergalactic starship that can exceed the speed of light and even then it still would be absolutely impossible.

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