When An Otherwise Long-Silent Pair Of Neutron Stars Collide, Under Just The Right Conditions, A Magnetar May Form: New NU Astronomy Research

Well. . . this is highly unexpected — but the poetic metaphor it engenders. . . almost feels. . . destined to be: much more explosive energy is given off (like ten times as much), when two bodies long silent and separated, come together — merge.

And at least once. . . in a great while — the oddest of all stellar species results: a highly magnetic very dense star remains where the two once were. But it is not (yet) a black hole / collapse scenario — at least not in this case. Fascinating.

Here is the latest, from Space.com’s fine reporting:

. . .[As multiple-source] observations came in, researchers realized there was something strange going on: The flash included far more infrared light than predicted, 10 times more. The scientists behind the new research think that discrepancy may mean the crash produced something unexpected.

“These observations do not fit traditional explanations for short gamma-ray bursts,” Wen-fai Fong, an astronomer at Northwestern University in Illinois and lead author on the new research, said in a statement. “Given what we know about the radio and X-rays from this blast, it just doesn’t match up. . . .”

“We know that magnetars exist because we see them in our galaxy,” Fong said in a second statement. “We think most of them are formed in the explosive deaths of massive stars, leaving these highly magnetized neutron stars behind. However, it is possible that a small fraction form in neutron star mergers. We have never seen evidence of that before, let alone in infrared light, making this discovery special. . . .”

The research is described in a paper announced for publication in The Astrophysical Journal today, and available to read on the preprint server arXiv.org. . . .

Now you know. . . sometimes, the long-silent ones do surprise — sometimes, the quiet ones are the ones that shine. . . the brightest. Grin. . . .


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