When Neutron Stars Collide
Armed with state-of-the-art supercomputer models, scientists have shown that colliding neutron stars can produce the energetic jet required for a gamma-ray burst. Earlier simulations demonstrated that mergers could make black holes. Others had shown that the high-speed particle jets needed to make a gamma-ray burst would continue if placed in the swirling wreckage of a recent merger.
Now, the simulations reveal the middle step of the process—how the merging stars' magnetic field organizes itself into outwardly directed components capable of forming a jet. The Damiana supercomputer at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics needed six weeks to reveal the details of a process that unfolds in just 35 thousandths of a second—less than the blink of an eye.
The Image:
These images show the merger of two neutron stars recently simulated using a new supercomputer model. Redder colors indicate lower densities. Green and white ribbons and lines represent magnetic fields. The orbiting neutron stars rapidly lose energy by emitting gravitational waves and merge after about three orbits, or in less than 8 milliseconds. The merger amplifies and scrambles the merged magnetic field. A black hole forms and the magnetic field becomes more organized, eventually producing structures capable of supporting the jets that power short gamma-ray bursts.
NASA/AEI/ZIB/M. Koppitz and L. Rezzolla
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
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