This year’s neutron star collision unlocks cosmic mysteries | Science News

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Year in Review

This year’s neutron star collision unlocks cosmic mysteries

Discovery offers clues to heavy element formation, universe’s expansion and more

By
8:31am, December 13, 2017
illustration of neutron star collision

CRASH AND WAVE   In a galaxy 130 million light-years away, two neutron stars collided. This year, in the first detection of its kind, observatories caught the resulting gravitational waves and light show (illustrated).

Thousands of astronomers and physicists. Hundreds of hours of telescope observations. Dozens of scientific papers. Two dead stars uniting into one.

In 2017, scientists went all in on a never-before-seen astronomical event of astounding proportions: a head-on collision between two neutron stars, the ultradense remnants of exploded stars.

The smashup sent shivers of gravitational waves through Earth, and the light show that followed sent shivers of excitement down astronomers’ spines. A real-life scientific drama quickly unfolded as night after night, astronomers around the world raced the sunrise, capturing every possible bit of data before day broke at their observatories.

Scientists had long fantasized about using light together with gravitational waves to forge a new

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