Science & Tech

A perfectly spherical explosion has been spotted in deep space

A perfectly spherical explosion has been spotted in deep space
Artwork that can only exist in outer space created on the first …

A perfectly round explosion in space was viewed by astronomers who believe it may have been the result of two stars merging.

The round explosion, known as a kilonova, originated between 140 to 150 million light years away from Earth in the direction of the constellation Hydra, in a galaxy called NGC 4993.

A kilonova occurs when two extremely dense neutron stars merge together, forming an ever-expanding luminous fireball. It will then collapse and form a black hole.

Kilonova explosions have been known about since 1974, but their perfectly spherical look was not confirmed until 2017 when this one was studied intently by experts with the European Southern Observatory using their Chile-based Very Large Telescope.

Combined, the two neutron stars have a combined mass that is around 2.7 times that of the sun. They had been orbiting in space for billions of years before colliding.

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Astrophysicist Albert Sneppen at the Cosmic Dawn Center in Copenhagen, said: “It is a perfect explosion in several ways. It is beautiful, both aesthetically, in the simplicity of the shape, and in its physical significance.”

Sneppen is the lead author of a research paper published in the journal Nature and he explained why kilonova explosions look the way they do.

He said: “Aesthetically, the colors the kilonova emits quite literally look like a sun – except, of course, being a few hundred million times larger in surface area. Physically, this spherical explosion contains the extraordinary physics at the heart of this merger.”

Until they were studied, experts had expected the collision to create a flat disk, so scientists were left stumped.

Co-author of the study and Cosmic Dawn Center astrophysicist, Darach Watson, explained: “Given the extreme nature of the physical conditions — far more extreme than a nuclear explosion, for example, with densities greater than an atomic nucleus, temperatures of billions of degrees and magnetic fields strong enough to distort the shapes of atoms – there may well be fundamental physics here that we don’t understand yet.”

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