Unprecedented star collision observed through light and gravitational waves

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Artist illustration of neutron star collision Artist illustration of neutron star collision
The two neutron stars smashing into each other creates a kilonova, which is also expected to throw heavy elements into space.  Some of these elements an their atomic numbers are show on top of this kilonova The two neutron stars smashing into each other creates a kilonova, which is also expected to throw heavy elements into space. Some of these elements an their atomic numbers are show on top of this kilonova
The two neutron stars spiraled around each other in a death dance before crashing into each other The two neutron stars spiraled around each other in a death dance before crashing into each other
This image from Carnegie Observatories compares the collision's brightness on the day it was seen to four days later, when it cooled down This image from Carnegie Observatories compares the collision's brightness on the day it was seen to four days later, when it cooled down
(KAKE) -

For the first time, two nearby neutron stars smashed into each other, and scientists were able to detect light and gravitational waves from the collision.  The star circled in a spiral death dance before crashing into one another.

The collision spat out heavy elements such as gold, platinum and lead in the huge supernova, called a kilonova, that followed.  This helps scientists to understand where all of the heavier elements came into being.  Elements heavier than Iron can't be formed naturally unless dense stars collide or massive stars collapse.  

CNN reports that scientists are calling the collision unprecedented and that this discovery could bring in a new era of astronomy.  Scientists around the world published papers Monday, one paper included as much as 35% of astronomers globally.

Gravitational waves were discovered just two years ago, after being predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity, and three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize for that first detection, which was the result of two black holes smashing into each other.

Neutron stars are the smallest stars in the universe, but as a NASA video says, they are so densely packed that a sugar cubed sized piece can weigh as much as all of the water in the Great Lakes.

The collision put out light in the form of a two-second gamma ray burst.  Longer gamma ray bursts are seen often, during supernovae, but shorter than two-second burst are rare.

According to CNN, this big discovery leaves lots of new questions in its wake.  Scientists still don't know if the collision of these stars created a bigger neutron star or even a black hole.  They're also wondering why the gamma ray burst was only two seconds long. However, the biggest question scientists have is when can we see another collision like this?

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