Friday, January 20, 2023

These Huge Neutron Stars Existed For Less Than The Blink of an Eye

Not much can be achieved in a few hundred milliseconds. Yet for the neutron stars glimpsed in the glints of two gamma-ray bursts, it's more than enough time to educate us a thing or two about life, death, and the birth of black holes.

Researchers recently detected patterns in the oscillations of light left by two different sets of colliding stars, showing a pause on their journey from super-dense object to unlimited pit of darkness.


For about 30 years, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory circled Earth and gathered the shine of X-rays and gamma rays that spilled from faraway cataclysmic events. That archive of high energy photons consists of a trove of information on things like colliding neutron stars, which emits powerful pulses of radiation known as gamma-ray bursts.



Spun into high rotation, these fields can speed up particles to ridiculously high velocities, creating polar jets that appear to 'pulse' like supercharged lighthouses.

Neutron stars are created as more ordinary stars (around 8 to 30 times the mass of our Sun) lit off the last of their fuel, leaving a core of around 1.1 to 2.3 solar masses, too cold to endure the squeeze of its own gravity.


The more precise term for the pattern detected in the gamma-ray bursts recorded by Compton in the early 1990s is a quasiperiodic oscillation. The mix of frequencies that rise and fall in the signal can be decoded to explain the final moments of huge objects as they circle one another and then strike.



From what the astronomers can tell, the striking each generated an object around 20 percent larger than the current record-holder heavyweight neutron star – a pulsar estimated at 2.14 times the mass of our Sun. They were also double the size of a typical neutron star.



Interestingly, the objects were revolving at an extreme pace of nearly 78,000 times a minute, far faster than the record-holding pulsar J1748–2446ad, which directs around 707 turns a second.



The few revolutions each neutron star directed to pull off in its brief lifetime of a fraction of a second could have been powered by just enough angular momentum to strive with their gravitational implosion.





Reference: Nature


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