Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 18:42 EDT
Stellar Merger Model for Gamma-ray Burst
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Stellar Merger Model for Gamma-ray Burst

August 16, 2013
This sequence illustrates a model for the formation of a short-duration gamma-ray burst. 1. A pair of neutron stars in a binary system spiral together. Orbital momentum is dissipated through the release of gravity waves, which are tiny ripples in the fabric of space-time. 2. In the final milliseconds, as the two objects merge, they kick out highly radioactive material. This material heats up and expands, emitting a burst of light called a kilonova. An accompanying gamma-ray burst lasts just one-tenth of a second, but is 100 billion times brighter than the kilonova flash. 3. The fading fireball blocks visible light but radiates in infrared light. 4. A remnant disk of debris surrounds the merged object, which may have collapsed to form a black hole. Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)