Binary System

We’re made of star stuff

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Neutron Star Collision
Neutron Star Collision

Every single thing you can sense around you is made of matter. Every single atom in your body, was once forged inside the nucleus of a star for a very long time ago, even before our solar system existed.

We are products of star fusion, supernovas. But recently astronomers discovered in simulations, we might also be parts of even more rare events of collision of stars, which explains the rarity of heavy elements such as gold, platinum, uranium and so on.

This rarity is what makes gold so precious to humans and used throughout history as currency. Something that not everyone possess or is able to acquire in large quantities. The reason to that?

Neutron stars.

First you need a binary system… Not like our own solar system, but a system with 2 stars orbiting around each other. That’s is not extremely common either. But also in this recipe we need these stars end up as neutron stars at the end of their lives and finally a dramatic end…. A collision between them.

Now that is more of a rare event.

Although this might sound almost like impossible, the vast amount of space and the tremendous amount of star systems created over time in a galaxy, results mathematically having these events not to be as rare as we thought. To a human being,  100 years is experienced as a very long time. In astronomy on the other hand, you’ve got ridiculous huge numbers of distances, time span and forces. Something that the human mind cannot comprehend pure mathematically… It is not as far as the neighbor house around the corner, or your monthly salary, or the age of your children, or the number of pages of your favorite book. We talk about billions of years, or distance of the speed of light covered over thousands of years away, and so on.

And like Carl Sagan said… The amount of stars in our galaxy are much more than the amount of sand grains from all beaches on earth put together.

The fore the human body need some of these rare elements in order to function. Remember that stars can fuse only as heavy elements as iron (Fe), heavier than that and you’ll need even stronger and violent forces. Ones that would be expected by the death of stars or by colissions. And some of these elements are made by supernovas and now even believed by neutron star collisions.

So, if you consider proposing to the one you love and give her a ring, then explain to her. “My love, this ring is rare and unique. So unique, that two neutron stars had to collide for it to exist and now finally be placed on your finger”. I’m sure you will make her feel special, as much as that neutron star collision.

The theoretical predictions got now to be put in practice and observed by astronomers.

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Summer projects and the 472 Roma ockultation

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During June-July at Tycho Brahe observatory we were preparing for a large project that would involve the cooperation between many amateur astronomers from different locations in Sweden. The Swedish assosiation for amateur astronomers (SAAF: Svenska Amatörastronomiska Föreningen) helped us to get in touch with other amateur astronomers across the country. Together with my collegue Arne L Ohlsson we started to put hard work on planning, coordinating meetings, assembling nessesary instrumentation and dealing with time pressure.

The ockultation is all about a large rock out in space, or more commonly called an asteroid named 472 Roma passing infront of the delta star (Yed Prior) in the constellation of Ophiucus, causing this large red giant star to dissappear for a around 5 seconds. This asteroidal passage was meant to be easily observed from our location, but negative observations outside the occultation shadow would provide a lot of information regarding the star itself.

It has been mistaken for a long time that the delta star in Ophiucus would be a double and for the first time an asteroid would occult this star and reveal it’s secrets for us. Unfortunately just before the occultation occurred, heavy clouds surounded our area. That was our worse case scenario that just took place, leaving us with unanswered questions.

In the morning we heard that the German and Belgian astronomers were more lucky then us and that many positive reports started to fall in!