The denominations of phenomena in space sound more and more familiar to us, since news about the universe has become recurrent. However, you may never have read about a kilonova, a concept that may already be beginning to be coined, especially after the discovery by astronomers at Northwestern University.
Strictly speaking, a kilonova is an explosion a thousand times brighter than a normal nova, and occurs when two neutron stars merge, resulting in an X-ray source.
Aprajita Hajela, one of the astronomers who participated in the published study in The Astrophysical Journal Lettersgives more details about kilonovae.
“We have entered uncharted territory here in studying the consequences of a neutron star merger. We see something new and extraordinary for the first time. This gives us the opportunity to study and understand new physical processes, which had not been observed before,” said the scientist.
Raffaella Margutti, a senior astrophysics student at the University of California, Berkeley and an author of the study, said that one of the keys to the detection of the kilonova was showing that the jets from X-ray sources began to fade rapidly, which would give indications of a glow of these kilonovae. To observe this phenomenon they used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.
“The fact that the X-rays stopped fading rapidly was our best evidence yet that something other than a jet is being detected in the X-rays from this source,” said Raffaella Margutti, “It seems that a completely different source is needed. X-rays to explain what we’re seeing.”
“This would be the first time we’ve seen a kilonova afterglow or the first time we’ve seen material falling into a black hole after a neutron star merger,” added study co-author Joe Bright, also of the University of California at Los Angeles. Berkeley. “Any outcome would be extremely exciting.”