Astrophysicists managed catch the first glimpse ever of a unique astronomical event. This show had two neutron stars as its two main protagonists, and displayed their collision which left a huge debris trail behind. However, that’s when the most interesting thing started, as the trail hid some clues regarding the mysteries of the universe.
The collision of the neutron stars, a cosmic mine for heavy metals
First of all, the collision allowed scientists to identify the origin of some of the expensive metals present in the universe. The elements present in the trail of the neutron stars indicate that many other such collisions caused the formation of gold, silver, platinum, and mostly any kind of metal existent.
Soon after the Big Bang, the universe was filled mostly with hydrogen and helium, as these are the lightest elements in the Periodic Table. As soon as stars started forming, other heavier elements came into being. However, the theory says the heaviest element which can possibly come from a star is iron.
The evidence for the formation of heavier elements has been scarce, but the collision of these two neutrons stars finally showed some traces of different metals which were formed during the crash. Therefore, researchers called this event a ‘cosmic mine’ of heavier elements.
The event highlighted the expansion of the universe
The event solved another space mystery. After scientists ruled out the hypothesis regarding the gamma ray bursts and Russian nuclear bombs, the observation of the neutron stars was followed by a short gamma ray burst which quickly came after the moment of the collision.
In the end, this event was one clear evidence of how the universe keeps expanding. Scientists hadn’t been able to calculate a speed of this expansion. However, when the collision of the neutron stars took place, it released a gravitational wave. By measuring the scope of the wave, scientists can estimate the distance where the event took place. Also, the wavelength of the phenomenon can help them calculate an approximate speed.
The collision produced the first gamma rays and gravitational waves ever observed. Therefore, their observation allowed researchers to make an idea about how the universe expanded.
Image Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory