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July 02, 2010

What happens when neutron stars collide, anyway?

Movies , Music , Science!

Obviously, one of the lingering questions about The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is what the heck is going on in "Neutron Star Collision," the song Muse wrote for the movie? Is a neutron star collision good or bad? What happens? Death and destruction for all? It's kind of unclear from the song, so I asked my favorite Muse fan, who also happens to work in the planetarium field, so I expect him to be an expert on all things astronomical. Obviously.

He kindly took up the question on his blog:

In any case, colliding neutron stars don't so much whack into each other as orbit each other very fast until they merge in a great explosion of energy. They may orbit for many years, but once the death spiral begins it can end almost instantaneously, with the stars traveling close to the speed of light. . . . So hearts combining, figuratively, are not badly represented by the literal fusing of two stars. What becomes of those two stars is something new -- perhaps a black hole.
That actually makes more sense in the context of the movie than I'd expected it to! But memo to Bella and Edward: Notice how you end up with a black hole there? Yeah. Not exactly a happily-ever-after. Just, you know, something to keep in mind.

Posted by Kat at July 2, 2010 09:00 AM
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