Astronomers at the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab made the first confirmed detection of a galaxy that will one day form a kilonova, an ultra-powerful gold-producing explosion created by merging neutron stars.
Researchers said Tuesday they used data from the SMARTS 1.5-meter telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile to discover the first example of the phenomenally rare type of binary star system. The findings are published in the journal Nature.
Known as CPD-29 2176, the arrangement is so astonishingly rare that only about 10 such systems exist in the Milky Way galaxy.
CPD-29 2176, is located about 11,400 light-years from Earth and was first identified by NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory.
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Further observation with the telescope allowed the scientists to deduce the orbital characteristics and types of stars that make up this system: a neutron star created by an ultra-stripped supernova and a nearby orbiting massive star that is in the process of becoming an ultra-stripped itself. become supernova.
An ultra-stripped supernova is the end-of-life explosion of a massive star that has had much of its outer atmosphere stripped away by a companion star.
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“The current neutron star should form without ejecting its companion from the system. An ultra-stripped supernova best explains why these companion stars are in such a tight orbit,” says the paper’s lead author, Noel Richardson of Embry- Riddle. Aeronautical University, said in a statement. “To one day create a kilonova, the other star would also have to explode as an ultra-stripped supernova, so that the two neutron stars can eventually collide and merge.”
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It will take at least a million years for the massive star to end its life as a giant supernova explosion, leaving behind a second neutron star. The authors said the stellar remnant and pre-existing neutron star must come together before merging and noted that the resulting kilonova explosion will produce much more powerful gravitational waves and leave behind a large amount of heavy elements, including silver and gold.