What happens when neutron stars collide? | Science & Technology

When stars collapse, they can leave behind incredibly dense but relatively small and cold remnants called neutron stars. If two stars collapse in close proximity, the leftover binary neutron stars spiral in and eventually collide, and the interface where the two stars begin merging becomes incredibly hot. New simulations of these events show hot neutrinos — tiny, essentially massless particles that rarely interact with other matter — that are created during the collision can be briefly trapped at these interfaces and remain out of equilibrium with the cold cores of the merging stars for 2 to 3 milliseconds. During this time, the simulations show that the neutrinos can weakly interact with the matter of the stars, helping to drive the particles back toward equilibrium — and lending new insight into the physics of these powerful events.

A paper describing the simulations, by a research team led by Penn State physicists, appeared in the journal Physical Reviews Letters.

“For the first time in 2017, we observed here on Earth signals of various kinds, including gravitational waves, from a binary neutron star merger,” said Pedro Luis Espino, a postdoctoral researcher at Penn State and the University of California, Berkeley, who led the research. “This led to a huge surge of interest in binary neutron star astrophysics. There is no way to reproduce these events in a lab to study them experimentally, so the best window we have into understanding what happens during a binary neutron star merger is through simulations based on math that arises from Einstein’s theory of general relativity.”

Neutron stars get their name because they are thought to be composed almost entirely out of neutrons, the uncharged particles that, along with positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons, make up atoms. Their incredible density — only black holes are smaller and denser — is thought to squeeze protons and electrons together, fusing them into neutrons. A typical…

Source www.sciencedaily.com

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