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Collision of Dead Stars Unlocks 'New Chapter' for Astronomy

Scientists confirmed on October 16 they detected a cataclysmic neutron star collision about 130 million light years away from Earth, an event they said has ushered in a new chapter for astronomy.

The rare cosmic phenomenon – called a kilonova, according to a New York Times report – was detected on August 17. Two neutron stars – crushed leftover cores of massive stars that long ago exploded as supanovas, according to NASA – collided in the southern constellation of Hydra. The LIGO executive director said it was the “most spectacular fireworks in the universe.”

Scientists long theorised such explosions were responsible for the creation of the universe’s heavier elements including precious metals such as gold, silver and uranium. The collision was monitored by thousand of scientists on Earth and observed through over 70 telescopes; they concluded after weeks of speculation that the kilonova created a cloud of gold dust many times the size of Earth, supporting the theory these stellar explosions could’ve played a pivotal role in the creation of life.

In a blog, NASA said the event was a “new chapter in astronomy.”

“For centuries, light was the only way we could learn about our universe,” the blog said. “Now, we’ve opened up a whole new window into the study of neutron stars and black holes. This means we can see things we could not detect before.” Credit: NASA Goddard via Storyful

NASA images of Earth

Pictures by NASA of Planet Earth, and the astronauts who took them.