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Neutron Star Merger and the Gravity Waves it Produces

Binary systems containing neutron stars are born when the cores of two orbiting stars collapse in supernova explosions. Neutron stars pack the mass of our sun into the size of a city. They are so dense and packed so tightly that the boundaries atoms nuclei disappear. In such systems, Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts that neutron stars emit gravitational radiation, ripples of space-time. This causes the orbits to shrink and gradually brings the neutron stars closer together. Shown here is such a system after about 1 billion years, when two equal-mass neutron whirl around each other at 60,000 times a minute. The stars merge in a few milliseconds, sending out a burst of gravitational waves and a brief, intense gamma-ray burst.


This animation shows a neutron star merger and the gravity waves it produces. After the gamma-ray burst, the new, more massive neutron star is visible spinning at an increased rate.


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NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation's largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.



NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center


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Uploaded on April 20, 2010