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This artist's impression video shows how two tiny but very dense neutron stars merge via gravitational wave radiation and then explode as a kilonova.

A kilonova (macronova or r-process supernova) is a transient astronomical event that occurs in a compact binary system when two neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole merge into each other. Kilonovae are thought to emit short gamma-ray bursts and strong electromagnetic radiation due to the radioactive decay of heavy r-process nuclei that are produced and ejected fairly isotropically during the merger process.[1]

The first kilonova to be found was detected as a short gamma-ray burst, sGRB 130603B, by instruments on board the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Explorer and KONUS/WIND spacecrafts and then observed using the Hubble Space Telescope.[1]


The inspiral and merging of two compact objects are a strong source of gravitational waves (GW).[2] Kilonovae are thought to be progenitors of short gamma-ray bursts[2] (GRB) and the predominant source of stable r-process elements in the Universe.[1] The term kilonova was introduced by Metzger et al. in 2010[2] to characterize the peak brightness, which they showed reaches 1000 times that of a classical nova. The basic model for neutron star mergers was introduced by Li-Xin Li and Bohdan Paczyński in 1998.[3]


First kilonova observations by Hubble.[4]

The first clear detection of a kilonova was in 2013, in association with the short-duration gamma-ray burst GRB 130603B, where the faint infrared emission from the distant kilonova was detected using the Hubble Space Telescope.[1]

On October 16, 2017, the LIGO and Virgo collaborations announced the first simultaneous detections of gravitational waves (GW170817) and electromagnetic radiation (GRB 170817A, SSS17a) of any phenomena,[5] and demonstrated that the source was a kilonova caused by a binary neutron star merger.[6] This short GRB was followed by a longer transient visible for weeks in the optical electromagnetic spectrum (AT 2017gfo) located in a relatively nearby galaxy, NGC 4993.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Tanvir, N. R.; Levan, A. J.; Fruchter, A. S.; Hjorth, J.; Hounsell, R. A.; Wiersema, K.; Tunnicliffe, R. L. (2013). "A 'kilonova' associated with the short-duration γ-ray burst GRB 130603B". Nature. 500 (7464): 547–9. arXiv:1306.4971Freely accessible. Bibcode:2013Natur.500..547T. doi:10.1038/nature12505. PMID 23912055. 
  2. ^ a b c Metzger, B. D.; Martínez-Pinedo, G.; Darbha, S.; Quataert, E.; et al. (August 2010). "Electromagnetic counterparts of compact object mergers powered by the radioactive decay of r-process nuclei". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 406 (4): 2650. arXiv:1001.5029Freely accessible. Bibcode:2010MNRAS.406.2650M. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2010.16864.x. 
  3. ^ Li-Xin Li and Bohdan Paczyński (1998). "Transient Events from Neutron Star Mergers". The Astrophysical Journal. 507: L59–L62. doi:10.1086/311680/fulltext/ (inactive 2018-01-19). 
  4. ^ "Hubble observes source of gravitational waves for the first time". Retrieved 18 October 2017. 
  5. ^ Abbott, B. P.; Abbott, R.; Abbott, T. D.; Acernese, F.; Ackley, K.; Adams, C.; Adams, T.; Addesso, P.; Adhikari, R. X.; Adya, V. B.; et al. (LIGO Scientific Collaboration & Virgo Collaboration) (16 October 2017). "GW170817: Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Neutron Star Inspiral". Physical Review Letters. 119 (16): 161101. Bibcode:2017PhRvL.119p1101A. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.161101. PMID 29099225. 
  6. ^ Miller, M. Coleman (16 October 2017). "Gravitational waves: A golden binary". Nature. News and Views: 36. Bibcode:2017Natur.551...36M. doi:10.1038/nature24153. 
  7. ^ Berger, Edo (16 October 2017). "Focus on the Electromagnetic Counterpart of the Neutron Star Binary Merger GW170817". Astrophysical Journal Letters. IOP Science. Retrieved 16 October 2017. 

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