Who knew two dead stars can create such a mess? After spending millions of dollars, making thousands of observations, and publishing hundreds of papers, scientists now think that the union of neutron stars can give birth to black holes–if this is true–it will be the lightest black hole known. August 17, 2017 was not all just another day under the sun for scientists as they witnessed a phenomenal event: the collusion of two celestial objects, two dead stars. Since the discovery of neutron stars, researchers were speculating the after effects of their collision and dying to observe the smash of two massive dead stars. However, now scientists can firmly deduce the aftermath of such rare event.
There is nothing as fascinating as the collision of two dead stars and scientists love to make conjectures about it. The neutron stars, the collapsed core of a massive stars, which before collapsing give up the ability to generate heat and cool over time. After their formation, the only way for them to evolve is by acceleration or collision. These remanences of supernovae stuff huge amount of mass into incredibly small space. An average dead star is as big as a small city but weighs 50,000 times more than the Earth. As the name suggests, the neutron star is composed of–unlike any normal matter–only neutrons, as protons and electrons fuse together. If the size of a neutron star is more than 3 solar masses, it becomes a massive, stars eating black hole.
The collision of two neutron stars is an absolute rare event, which was recently observed by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Virgo interferometer. For brief two minutes, the two stars spiraled around each other with an inconceivable speed, and expelled gravitation waves in process. With each orbit, the pair came closer and closer, resulting in a collision that produced a giant shockwave. The aftermath of the event has been a bit of a puzzle ever since. However, according to a recently published study, titled “GW170817 Most Likely Made a Black Hole” the interstellar shock most likely produced a small black hole. The researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of California, Berkeley used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to figure out what exactly happened before and after the collision of binary pair of dead stars. LIGO data suggested that a new mass about 2.7 times of our sun was created after the collision. Scientists are still deciding whether the newly found celestial object, GW170817, is a black hole or a massive neutron star. If it’s a neutron star, it will be the biggest dead star known of its kind as the largest neutron stars are about 2.3 to 2.4 times our sun. However, if it is a black hole, it will become the least massive black hole in the history.
Pawan Kumar, the co-author of the study and an astronomer at University of Texas explained, “The study may have answered the most prime question of this event: What did it make? Astronomers have been speculating the birth of a black hole from the end of a neutron star. However, until now, we lacked evidence.” If black hole is what that celestial object is, there are several ways to confirm. Astronomers can study the X-ray patterns, and if they find brighter X-rays and radio wavelengths, it must a black hole, or else it is a giant neutron star. However, it may take time for scientists to find out the truth as they love to fight over every single nature’s marvel. No, really. Think about Pluto. They thought it was a planet, after that they confirmed it is a dwarf planet, and now they said it is a hulk comet. Moreover, scientists are confused about the famous Earth cousin, Kepler-452b as whether it is an exo-planet or just a statistical error. Therefore, if you want to know the truth about whether the newly created celestial object is a black hole or a giant neutron star, you may have to wait for few years.