Mt. Vernon Register-News

Features

July 18, 2013

Origin of gold found in rare neutron-star collisions

(Continued)

Most of these cosmic fruitcakes are solitary wanderers, but some are paired up, as remnants of binary stars. They will orbit a common point in space and gradually drift closer and closer, spiraling toward one another in obedience to Einstein's laws of general relativity. One day, they will collide.

In the Milky Way galaxy, with hundreds of billions of stars, such a neutron-star collision is likely to happen about once every 100,000 years, Berger said.

Astronomers are fortunate in that the universe is so vast, containing many billions of galaxies, that any all-sky survey might possibly see something even as rare as a neutron-star collision. So it was that on June 3, NASA's Swift space telescope observed a flash of light, called a short gamma-ray burst (GRB), in an extremely distant galaxy in the constellation Leo.

Astronomers scrambled to reobserve that tiny patch of space with a powerful telescope in Chile and with the Hubble Space Telescope.

They saw something glowing where they'd earlier seen the GRB. After comparing their observations with theoretical models, the astronomers concluded that they were seeing the radioactive afterglow from a huge quantity of heavy metals formed by a neutron-star smashup.

This observation potentially explains this type of short-duration GRB. These flashes of light can briefly outshine an entire galaxy. The June event, in a galaxy 3.9 billion light-years away, lasted only two-tenths of a second.

Although neutron-star collisions had been proposed as a source of such GRBs, now there is a direct observation.

"When they make contact, several exciting things happen very quickly," Berger said. "Most of the material actually collapses to form a black hole. Some of the material then gets sucked into the black hole. That is the event that causes the gamma-ray burst. Some of the material gets spewed out into space. That material, since it came from neutron stars, is very rich in neutrons, and as a result, is very efficient at forming these heavy elements, including gold."

Text Only
Features
  • The virtues of lying

    Two computational scientists set out recently to simulate the effects of lying in a virtual human population. Their results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that lying is essential for the growth of a cohesive social network.

    July 31, 2014

  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 30, 2014

  • 20140729-AMX-GIVHAN292.jpg Spanx stretches into new territory with jeans, but promised magic is elusive

    The Spanx empire of stomach-flattening, thigh-slimming, jiggle-reducing foundation garments has expanded to include what the brand promises is the mother of all body-shaping miracles: Spanx jeans.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 2.21.22 PM.png VIDEO: Dog 'faints' from excitement of seeing owner

    A reunion between a Pennsylvania woman who had been living overseas for two years and her pet schnauzer has gone viral, garnering nearly 20 million views on YouTube.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Has the ipad lost its swag?

      The company reported this week that sales of its sleek, pricey tablet were down 19 percent from last quarter and 9 percent year-over-year. CEO Tim Cook tried to reassure investors that Apple's new partnership with IBM to sell its devices to IBM's corporate customers will help make iPads ubiquitous in the workplace. "This isn't something that worries us," he said of the iPad sales decline. But the numbers are disappointing no matter how you spin them.

    July 24, 2014

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 23, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 22, 2014

  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 21, 2014

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 18, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks