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Kilonova spectrum, illustration

Kilonova spectrum, illustration

C037/4978

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Credit

NASA, ESA, AND A. FEILD (STSCI) / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA, ESA, AND A. FEILD (STSCI) / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Illustration of the spectrum of infrared light released by two colliding neutron stars in galaxy NGC 4993. This is the first time that the aftermath of such a collision, known as a kilonova, has been witnessed. There is a peak in the spectrum around the wavelength of a variety of radioactive elements called lanthanides. These 15 metallic elements, known as rare earth elements. Kilonova are thought to be the origin for all elements heavier than iron in the universe. This merger also produced gravitational waves and gamma rays, both of which were detected by LIGO-Virgo and Fermi/INTEGRAL detectors respectively on the 17th August 2017. Galaxy NGC 4993 is about 130 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Hydra.

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