Release Images

Release No.: 2006-12
For Release: Monday, January 30, 2006 - 7:00pm

Neutron Star Swaps Lead to Short Gamma-Ray Bursts

The photograph at left shows the galactic globular cluster M15, which contains a double neutron star system that will eventually collide to create a gamma-ray burst, as shown in the inset images at right. The right-hand images are taken from a computer animation and shows several snapshots covering just a fraction of a second in total time, with time advancing from top to bottom. Recent research shows that such collisions may be the source of up to 30 percent of all short gamma-ray bursts observed from Earth.

M15 Image Credit: NOAO/AURA/NSF; Merger Image Credit: NASA / Dana Berry

The Milky Way globular cluster M15 contains a double neutron star system, M15C, that will eventually spiral together and merge violently. Such mergers are a likely source of short gamma-ray bursts. Neutron star binaries are expected to form in globular clusters due to the likelihood of stellar exchanges in that crowded environment.


This artist's conception shows several stages of the merger of two neutron stars. Over a brief fraction of a second, the two Manhattan-sized stars collide to form a black hole, emitting a huge amount of energy in the process. Time proceeds from top to bottom.

NASA / Dana Berry