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NASA Video: Neutron Stars' Violent Collision to Form Black Hole

May 14, 2014 10:17 AM EDT
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A new video, released by NASA, shows two super-dense neutron stars destroy each other in a cataclysmic cosmic merger event that eventually creates a black hole.
(Photo : Flickr/NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

A new video, released by NASA, shows two super-dense neutron stars destroy each other in a cataclysmic cosmic merger event that eventually creates a black hole.

Scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center created the neutron star collision video. Although it was only a supercomputer simulation and not a real observation, Yotta Fire reports, the video demonstrates how these forces work in nature and can possibly give clues as to how the Universe has formed over the past 20 billion years or so.

It starts with two city-sized neutron stars - the burnt remnants of a violent supernova explosion - separated by about 11 miles (18 kilometers), NASA officials said.

One object is about 1.7 times heavier than our Sun, while the other contains 1.4 times the mass of our Sun.

The two stars spiral toward each other, and as they get closer and closer, the bigger stellar remnant crushes the smaller one, causing it to erupt and form a spiral arm around the larger neutron star - similar to Saturn's rings - according to NASA.

According to Space.com, NASA officials said that after 13 milliseconds, the larger neutron star begins to accumulate the mass of its smaller counterpart; it gives in on its own weight and forms a black hole.

"The black hole's event horizon - its point of no return - is shown by the gray sphere. While most of the matter from both neutron stars will fall into the black hole, some of the less-dense, faster-moving matter manages to orbit around it, quickly forming a large and rapidly rotating torus", NASA added in a statement.

Neutron stars form when a star that is eight to 30 times heavier than the Sun explodes in a supernova, leaving behind the compressed, dense core. A neutron star is so dense, that one cubic centimeter of matter outweighs Mount Everest.

This study, as well as others, indicates that mergers of neutron stars could create the gold in the universe. In 2013, scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics estimated that neutron collisions could eject as much as 10 lunar masses worth of gold.

NASA scientists also think that the violent collision between the two objects produces short gamma-ray bursts, which last about two seconds and unleash as much energy as all the stars in the Milky Way produce in more than a year. The afterglow from these extremely bright collisions is short-lived, making them difficult to study.

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