Hubble Spots Ultra-Speedy Jet Blasting From Star Crash

This is an artist's impression of two neutron stars colliding. The smashup between two dense stellar remnants unleashes the energy of 1,000 standard stellar nova explosions. In the aftermath of the collision a blowtorch jet of radiation is ejected at nearly the speed of light. The jet is directed along a narrow beam confined by powerful magnetic fields. The roaring jet ploughed into and swept up material in the surrounding interstellar medium.

The explosive event, named GW170817, was observed in August 2017. The blast released the energy comparable to that of a supernova explosion. It was the first combined detection of gravitational waves and gamma radiation from a neutron star merger.

In the aftermath of the smashup a blowtorch jet of radiation was ejected at nearly the speed of light, slamming into material surrounding the obliterated pair. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observed the explosion just two days after the collision. Astronomers used Hubble to measure the motion of a blob of material the jet slammed into. As the jet rocketed away from the site of the explosion, the blob moved outward like a leaf caught on a stream of water from a garden hose. The incredible precision, gleaned from Hubble and radio telescopes, was needed to measure the blob's trajectory. This was a major watershed in the ongoing investigation of neutron star collisions that keep ringing throughout the universe.

[Image Description: Illustration showing an oblique view of two neutron stars colliding with each other and the effects of that collision. To the lower left of center are two spheres that represent two neutron stars colliding. Both stars have fractured black surfaces with a light blue glow from the interior, giving them the appearance of breaking apart. Surrounding the two stars are ripple-like concentric rings representing gravitational waves. The rings are semi-transparent with a cloud-like appearance, grading from light orange at the center to darker orange with more distinct ripples with distance from the collision. Projecting out toward the upper right from the center of the collision, perpendicular to the gravitational waves, is a bright white beam representing a jet of radiation. The beam is brightest along its center with a bluish glow on either side that gradually gives way to black space.]


STScI, L. Wheatley

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Release date:12 October 2022, 17:00
Size:1920 x 1080 px

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