Astronomers have made a groundbreaking discovery of the first-ever kilonova star system, which will eventually produce an ultra-powerful, gold-producing explosion. The binary star system, located about 11,000 light-years away from Earth, consists of two neutron stars on a collision course and will merge to create one of the most powerful explosions in the universe.
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Only ten such systems have ever been detected in the depths of the universe. The system was first identified by NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and later analyzed by the SMARTS 1.5-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The findings, published in the journal Nature, revealed that the system has a neutron star created by an ultra-stripped supernova and a closely orbiting massive star that will also become an ultra-stripped supernova.
Lead author Noel D. Richardson of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University explains that for a kilonova event to occur, the massive star would also need to explode as an ultra-stripped supernova, allowing the two neutron stars to eventually collide and merge.
Astronomers are eager to observe this kilonova event as it could shed light on the origin of the heaviest elements in the universe and unravel the mystery of how kilonovae form. It will take at least one million years for the massive star to become a titanic supernova explosion and leave behind a second neutron star.
This discovery provides a new window into the origins of heavy elements in the universe and highlights the exciting potential for future astronomical discoveries.