Astrophysicists Discover a Mysterious Perfect Explosion in Space – “It Makes No Sense”

Contrary to what was previously assumed, an explosion caused by the collision of two neutron stars has the exact form of a spherical. Although it is currently unclear how this is feasible, the finding could offer a new way to understand basic physics and calculate the age of the universe. Astrophysicists from the University of Copenhagen produced the finding, which has now been reported in the journal Nature.

Black holes, the atoms in the gold ring on your finger, and the iodine in our bodies were all created by kilonovae, the enormous explosions that take place when two neutron stars circle each other and eventually collide. These result in the universe's most severe physical circumstances, which are what causes the universe to produce the heaviest elements of the periodic table like gold, platinum, and uranium.

But there is still a lot about this terrible occurrence that we do not understand. It wasn't until a kilonova was discovered in 2017 at a distance of 140 million light-years that researchers could compile thorough information. The data from this enormous explosion is still being interpreted by scientists all across the world, including Albert Sneppen and Darach Watson from the University of Copenhagen, who discovered a startling finding.

"You have two extremely small stars that circle one another 100 times per second before squeezing together. The explosive cloud produced by the impact must have a flattened and somewhat asymmetrical structure, according to our intuition and all prior models, says Albert Sneppen, a PhD student at the Niels Bohr Institute and the study's first author. The research was published in the journal Nature.

He and his study associates were so taken aback to see that this is in fact not the case with the kilonova from 2017. It resembles a perfect spherical in form and is entirely symmetrical.

"Nobody anticipated the explosion to appear this way. That it is spherical, like a ball, defies logic. Yet it's evident from our calculations that it is. According to Darach Watson, an associate professor at the Niels Bohr Institute and the study's second author, this suggests that crucial physics are missing from the theories and simulations of kilonovae that have been under consideration over the past 25 years.

The spherical form is mysterious.

Yet the main puzzle is how the kilonova can be spherical. The researchers conclude that there must be surprising physics at work:

"If a tremendous amount of energy blasts out from the explosion's core, smoothing out an otherwise asymmetrical form, it is the most likely approach to make the explosion spherical. Furthermore, the spherical form indicates that the collision's center likely contains a significant amount of energy, which was unexpected, according to Albert Sneppen.

The neutron stars temporarily combine into a single hypermassive neutron star during the collision before collapsing into a black hole. The researchers question if a significant portion of the secret is concealed in this collapse:

"Maybe a type of'magnetic bomb' is triggered when the star falls into a black hole, releasing energy from the hypermassive neutron star's massive magnetic field. The distribution of materials in the explosion may become more spherical due to the release of magnetic energy. The formation of the black hole may then be quite energetic, according to Darach Watson.

But, another feature of the researchers' discovery is not adequately explained by this explanation. All of the elements generated are heavier than iron, but according to earlier theories, the really heavy elements, like gold or uranium, should form in different locations in the kilonova than the lesser elements, like strontium or krypton, and they should be ejected in separate directions. Yet, only the lighter components, which are equally scattered throughout space, are detected by the researchers.

They consequently think that the mysterious elementary particles known as neutrinos, about which a great deal is still unknown, also have a significant impact on the phenomena.

"An alternate hypothesis is that the hypermassive neutron star emits extremely strongly during each millisecond of its existence, maybe containing a large amount of neutrinos. Overall, neutrinos can lead to the transformation of neutrons into protons and electrons, producing a greater number of lighter elements. Although there are problems with this theory as well, according to Albert Sneppen, neutrinos may be even more crucial than previously imagined.

A New Cosmic Authority

The explosion's form is also intriguing for a completely other reason:

There is a lot of debate among astrophysicists over how quickly the universe is expanding. Among other things, the speed reveals the age of the universe. And there are two ways to estimate it, but they differ by around a billion years. According to Albert Sneppen, "We may have a third technique here that may complement and be compared to the other metrics.

The technique now in use to gauge how quickly the Universe is expanding is referred to as the "cosmic distance ladder." To achieve this, all that has to be done is to calculate the distances between the many cosmic objects that serve as the ladder's rungs.

Darach Watson adds, "If they are brilliant and largely spherical, and if we know how far away they are, we can use kilonovae as a new technique to measure the distance independently - a new form of cosmic ruler."

"Understanding the geometry of the item is important since non-spherical objects produce light differently depending on your viewing angle. A spherical explosion offers substantially higher measuring precision.

He underlines that further information from kilonovae is needed for this. In the upcoming years, they anticipate that the LIGO observatories will find a significant number more kilonovae.

The following researchers contributed to the work: Albert Sneppen and Darach Watson from the Cosmic Dawn Center / Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen; Andreas Bauswein and Oliver Just, GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung, Germany; Rubina Kotak from the University of Turku, Finland; Ehud Nakar and Dovi Poznanski from Tel Aviv University, Israel; and Stuart Sim from Queen’s University Belfast, UK.