This interactive allows you to investigate possible past lives of the two neutron stars that merged in an event called GW170817 in the galaxy NGC 4993. The pair of stars—a neutron star and a normal star—orbit quietly, until the normal star undergoes a supernova, spawning a second neutron star and “kicking” the system into an elliptical orbit. The two neutron stars eventually merge and generate gravitational waves, a gamma-ray burst, and an explosion called a kilonova. Other potential lives are shown in the thinner, lighter-colored lines. You can explore many different potential lives for GW170817 here.
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Credit: LIGO-Virgo / Aaron Geller / Northwestern