Rare Double-Star System Discovered That Will Explode in a Kilonova

Scientists have made a groundbreaking discovery of a double-star system that will eventually explode in a kilonova, a precious-metal-creating blast caused by the collision of two stellar corpses. The kilonova will release gold, silver, platinum, and other heavy elements into space and is expected to happen millions of years from now. This binary system consists of one massive star and a dense neutron star in a shared orbit, and astronomers believe there are only a few such systems in our galaxy. Astronomers Discover First Star System That Will Form a Kilonova

The National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab astronomer AndrĂ©-Nicolas ChenĂ© and his team have used the SMARTS 1.5-meter Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile to observe the star system CPD-29 2176, located 11,400 light-years from Earth. The team deduces that the binary star system contains a small neutron star orbited by a massive companion star, which will likely become a neutron star itself in the future.

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Kilonovas occur during the merger of two neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole, emitting huge flashes of electromagnetic radiation. This binary star system has a neutron star that was left behind by a stripped-down supernova, where the star lost much of its outer mass to its companion before collapsing. The massive star is now losing its fuel and will likely become a stripped-down supernova, leaving two neutron stars that will eventually collide and merge, creating a kilonova.

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The precursor to this probable kilonova is a rare and exciting sight for scientists to study before the explosion occurs. Study lead author Noel D. Richardson, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, states that understanding systems like CPD-29 2176 will give insight into how some stars can die without a traditional supernova.

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