Monday, October 16, 2017

Fwd: Neutron star collision triggers worldwide discoveries

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From: "Nature Briefing" <>
Date: Oct 16, 2017 12:11 PM
Subject: Neutron star collision triggers worldwide discoveries
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Multiple cosmic mysteries may be solved by the observation of a merger between two super-dense neutron stars. | 
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Monday 16 October 2017

Hello Nature readers,

Today we delight in the torrent of discoveries unleashed by gravitational wave, γ-ray, optical, X-ray and radio observations of a spectacular collision between two super-dense neutron stars.

Artist's impression of colliding neutron stars
A simulation of the merger of two neutron stars (W. Kastaun/T. Kawamura/B. Giacomazzo/R. Ciolfi/A. Endrizzi.)

Neutron-star merger is source of heavy elements, gamma ray bursts

An epic collision between two super-dense neutron stars has simultaneously solved multiple cosmic mysteries. Observations confirm that such explosive stellar encounters are a source of mysterious short γ-ray bursts. Also, that neutron-star collisions are where gold, platinum, uranium and many rare earth elements are formed. Researchers published several dozen papers in at least five journals today based on the event, which was detected on Earth on 17 August.

By the numbers

• Name of the neutron-star collision event: GW170817
• Distance from Earth: 40 million parsecs (130 million light years)
• Amount of gold flung into space: about 10 times Earth's mass
• Duration of the gravitational-wave signal: 100 seconds (the longest ever observed)
• Research teams involved in observations: over 70 on all seven continents
• Authors of the overview paper in The Astrophysical Journal Letters: 3,566

How a stellar event ripples around the world

The neutron-star collision detected on 17 August kicked off the strongest and longest gravitational-wave signal ever seen on Earth, spotted first by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) in the United States and by its Italy-based counterpart Virgo. Discover how such an event triggers a worldwide network of smaller telescopes, often built on a shoestring budget, to spring into action to search for flares of light coming from the same spot.

"We could all use a nap. And a pizza."

Astrophysicist Shane Larson describes the life-changing experience of observing a neutron-star collision, why the part he's most excited about is measuring the expansion of the Universe, and the biggest thing we don't know about the discovery: what is the thing left over?

Artist's impression of colliding neutron stars
A simulation of the merger of two neutron stars (W. Kastaun/T. Kawamura/B. Giacomazzo/R. Ciolfi/A. Endrizzi.) Can't see the animation? Click to watch it in your browser.

Prepare for larger, longer wildfires

The brutal, immediate effects of climate change have arrived in western North America in the form of wildfires. We need ambitious, flexible plans to adapt, says climate change researcher Kathie Dello.

How Congress derailed the DEA's war on opioids

The epidemic of opioid-related deaths in the US has been allowed to run rampant because drug distributors are lobbying Congress on an epic scale, says an investigation by The Washington Post and 60 Minutes. Congress has passed laws reducing the Drug Enforcement Administration's power to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments that may end up on the black market.

The particle pioneer

Fifty years ago, Steven Weinberg published the iconic paper that gave rise to the standard model and inspired the CERN experimental programme. He tells of the pleasure of seeing one of your 'squiggles' come to describe reality, how science is like sexing a chicken, and why finding the standard-model Higgs boson (and nothing else) is a "nightmare scenario".

Quote of the day

"You can afford rent! You can have a family! You can report sexual harassment!"

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Thanks for reading!
Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing


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