Scientists saw a paired death of stars for the first time

Dmytro IvancheskulLife
Artistic representation of neutron star collision. Source: Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science/University of Warwick/Mark Garlick/OBOZREVATEL collage

For the first time, astronomers were able to see the death of two stars simply colliding with each other and exploding. The theory of the existence of such a spectacular demise has long been voiced, but in reality, no one has ever observed this process.

Scientists reported the discovery in a study published in the Nature Astronomy journal. The scientists described what they saw as a "race to destruction."

The discovery was made when scientists were looking for the source of a powerful gamma-ray burst (GRB).

Most GRBs occur when massive stars merge or explode into a supernova, but the recently identified GRB, named 191019A, appears to have originated from a collision of neutron stars or stellar remnants. It occurred in the chaotic environment of a supermassive black hole at the center of an ancient galaxy.

"Most stars in the universe die in an assumed way that is based only on their mass," astronomer and lead author Andrew Levan explained to Reuters. But the new study "shows a new path to stellar destruction."

What they've seen gives scientists insight into the evolution of stars, as well as the many unexpected ways they meet their demise.

Levan also noted that the stellar death was significantly more explosive than others already known.

He also suggested that such star collisions could be the cause of the gravitational waves that researchers on Earth are recording.

According to the co-author of the discovery, Ani Nugent, a doctoral student at the Northwestern Astronomical Institute who is an expert on gamma-ray bursts, the discovery, observed with the Gemini South telescope of the National Science Foundation in Chile, "questions almost all of our expectations."

"For every hundred events that fit into the traditional gamma-ray burst classification scheme, there is at least one weirdo confounding us," added Wen-Fai Fong, an astrophysicist at the Northwestern Astronomical Institute and co-author of the study.

He stressed that such strangers "tell us more about the astonishing variety of explosions that the universe is capable of."

Earlier OBOZREVATEL also told that NASA recorded a superpower explosion that rocked the entire cosmos.

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