Discovery of asymmetrical double neutron star system may have astronomical implications

The system is thought to be a precursor to ones like the double neutron star system that prompted the 2017 discovery of gravitational waves.


The National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico has made a major astronomical discovery. Scientists, led by the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, found an asymmetrical double neutron star system using the facility's powerful radio telescope.

As per a report in Eureka Alert, the type of star discovered is believed to be a precursor to the merging double neutron star systems like the one discovered in 2017.

The results of the study were published in the journal Nature and indicate that some specific kinds of double neutron star systems could be the key in unraveling dead star collisions as well as a more accurate determination of the expansion rate of the universe, called the 'Hubble constant'.

As per the Eureka Alert report, Robert Ferdman, the lead author of the study revealed that scientists at Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) first detected the merger of two neutron stars.

"The event caused gravitational-wave ripples through the fabric of space-time, as predicted by Albert Einstein over a century ago. It confirmed that the phenomenon of short gamma-ray bursts was due to the merger of two neutron stars," Ferdman added.

A recent finding made by researchers using the Arecibo Observatory suggests that asymmetrical double neutron star systems could be key in understanding dead star collisions and the expansion of the universe. Image: Arecibo Observatory/UCF

A recent finding made by researchers using the Arecibo Observatory suggests that asymmetrical double neutron star systems could be key in understanding dead star collisions and the expansion of the universe. Image: Arecibo Observatory/UCF

As per Benetege Perera, co-author of the paper and University of Central Florida scientist at the Arecibo observatory, the double neutron star system they observed shows "the most asymmetric masses amongst the known merging systems within the age of the universe."

Perera added that based on what is known from the LIGO observatory and their observations, understanding and characterising the population of asymmetric mass double neutron stars is important to gravitational wave astronomy.

As per a report in Metro UK, the binary star system they discovered has two neutron stars with different masses. One of these is a pulsar known as PSR J1913+1102, which rotates and emits beams of electromagnetic radiation from its poles.

The report quoted Ferdman as saying that stars will collide and merge in around 470 million years, "which seems like a long time, but it is only a small fraction of the age of the universe."

As one of the stars is significantly larger, its gravitational influence distort the shape of its companion, stripping away large amount of matter just before the two celestial bodies actually merge and potentially disrupt it altogether, Ferdman added. The resulting explosion is far more powerful than a collision of neutron stars with equal masses.


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