Smothered jet may explain weird light from neutron star crash | Science News

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Smothered jet may explain weird light from neutron star crash

The glow from the stellar collision has lingered much longer than expected

1:06pm, December 20, 2017
neutron star illustration

NO WAY OUT  Astronomers thought a merged neutron star’s odd light was explained by a jet facing away from Earth (left in this illustration). But a new study says the jet may have been smothered in a cocoon of debris from the merger, causing the cocoon to glow (right).   

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The neutron star collision heard and seen around the world has failed to fade. That lingering glow could mean that a jet of bright matter created in the crash has diffused into a glowing, billowy cocoon that surrounds the merged star, researchers report online December 20 in Nature.

Gravitational waves from the collision between two ultradense stellar corpses was picked up in August by the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, LIGO, and its sister experiment in Italy, Advanced Virgo (SN: 11/11/17, p. 6). Using telescopes on the ground and in space, physicists raced to conduct follow-up observations, and found that the collision released light across the electromagnetic spectrum.

Right away, the event looked unusual, says

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