Planck E PressCenter Articles

The Bewilderment of a Kilonova

Location: São Paulo, Brazil
Date published: 2023-02-03
Date modified: 2023-02-03
Reading time: 00:01:05

Author: Patrizia Tomasi-Bensik

The Bewilderment of a Kilonova

"The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument.

Not the suppression of ideas."

Carl Sagan


There is no better word to define a kilonova (or macronova) than bewilderment.

A neutron star or black hole collides with another neutron star.  A phenomenon is so rare that only ten have been recorded in the Milky Way.

Given the vast distances involved, Carl Sagan put into words something simple, real, but difficult to grasp: "When we look at the sky, we are looking at the past".

So it is quite possible that it has already happened, but has not yet reached us.  A neutron star 11,400 light years away is on a collision course with its giant companion.  When this happens, the explosion is so powerful that it scatters complex, and therefore precious, metals throughout the galaxy.

Supernovae, the result of the collision of stars, scatter matter that will form new planets as well as ordinary metals.  Rare events, such as the kilonova in question, produce gold, silver, platinum, and even strontium.

To give you an idea, a neutron star can be the diameter of the Sun but 20 to 25 times its mass, and there are thousands of them in the Milky Way. It is rare for two neutron stars (or a star and a black hole) to orbit together, and not every binary system will necessarily result in a kilonova.

So CPD-29 2176 is special, rare, almost miraculous.

It's bewilderment.

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