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Watch Two Neutron Stars Colliding and Creating a Black Hole on New NASA Video

First Posted: May 14, 2014 11:53 AM EDT

NASA has released a spectacular new computer simulation that shows off one of the most violent events in the universe: a pair of neutron stars colliding, merging and forming a black hole. The new video reveals a little bit more about how black holes form.

Neutron stars are compressed cores left behind when a massive star explodes as a supernova. These super dense stars have about 1.5 times the mass of the sun in an area that's just 12 miles across. When two of these massively dense bodies collide, though, they can spark an unusual event.

In the simulation, two neutron stars weighing 1.4 and 1.7 solar masses spiral toward one another. The intense forces at play begin to deform the stars, possibly cracking their crusts. Eventually, tidal forces overwhelm and shatter the smaller star, causing its superdense contents to erupt into the system.

This event is quickly followed by the massive star accumulating too much mass to support it against gravity. It collapses in itself, and creates a new black hole. While most matter from the neutron stars will fall into the black hole, some of the less dense matter will orbit around it and quickly form a large and rapidly rotating torus that extends for about 124 miles.

Events like this are thought to create a short gamma-ray burst (GRB), which last less than two seconds. Despite lasting such a short time, though, they create as much energy as all of the stars in our galaxy produce over one year. A key part of understanding these events is capturing the GRB with instruments when it happens-a challenging feat to accomplish.

Want to see the event for yourself? Check out the video below, courtesy of NASA and YouTube.

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