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When neutron stars collide


A supercomputer simulation shows details of a violent neutron-star merger.


A simulated image from the first milliseconds of a pair of merging neutron stars.
A simulated image from the first milliseconds of a pair of merging neutron stars.
Courtesy of David Radice and collaborators/Princeton/TEAMS

This image shows a snapshot of the first milliseconds in the violent merger of two neutron stars, revealing the tidal gravitational effects of the stars on each other. Over the following 10 milliseconds, the stars will merge into a single rapidly rotating neutron star with greater mass, and shortly afterward collapse into a black hole surrounded by a disk of ejected material.

The first real-world detection of such a merger – by means of gravitational waves and visible light signals – was only recently achieved, but they have been a focus of interest for many years.

The image is a result of calculations and rendering by David Radice and his collaborators at Princeton, who use supercomputers to simulate some of the most violent, high-energy phenomena in the universe, such as black hole mergers and supernovae.

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