Re: Distant Gamma Ray Burster Nailed

Carl Feynman (
Sat, 24 May 1997 11:40:19 -0400

At 06:30 PM 5/23/97 -0400, Michael Lorrey wrote:
>... Say a neutron star hits another
>neutron star. At least one of these neutron stars is just below the
>threshold to be a black hole. When they hit, the combined mass tips over
>the limit to become a singularity, and they implode in a huge gush of
>radiation. ...

Ding ding ding! Give that man a gold-plated cigar! You have just described
the current leading theory for the formation of gamma-ray bursts.

>THere are bound to be some wild warping and tearing of
>spacetime as these two rotating bodies merge. Additionally, a neutron
>star is not pure neutronium. It usually has a decently thick crust of
>material, typically denser than iron, as such elements have a negative
>fusion energy balance. A huge rush of radiation from the implosion would
>instantly fission, fuse, and possibly totally annihilate a large portion
>of the crust material, creating even more radiation...

All these physical effects and more will occur when two neutron stars glom
into each other and form a black hole. It's sufficiently hard to figure out
what happens that there is no concensus how we get from the neutron stars to
the gamma rays. There's obviously plenty of energy there to make all the
gamma rays, but understanding what happens requires simultaneous analysis of
black holes, nuclear reactions at temperatures far above experiment,
turbulence beyond current theoretical understanding, magnetic fields and
shock waves far stronger than those in any other astrophysical object, and
the very real possibility that new laws of physics come into play. What fun!