Aside from the amount of sheer power that’s generated from two stars colliding, a range of different outcomes develops from this celestial event. You’d likely be interested to find out that star collisions can be quite beneficial for the universe in a number of ways. But what what actually happens? Here is everything you’ll want to know.
So, what happens when two stars collide? When two stars collide, one of two things will happen; there will be a sizeable explosion or they’ll merge and form together. The outcome primarily depends on the type of stars that end up colliding. Their individual radius, mass, and temperature upon collision heavily weigh on the events that follow.
It’s a bit more complicated than that in some scenarios, as outer space is known to be full of surprises.
This article will expand on the possibilities that occur when two stars collide to better understand how the event takes place and what’s bound to follow.
What Happens When Stars Collide?
From the creation of blue straggler stars to supernova events that can seem catastrophic based on the scale of the event, star collisions can lead to a rippling effect of events. All of this depends on the type of stars that are colliding, and each comes with unique characteristics. Overall, one of two things will occur, there will either be a sizeable explosion, or the stars will end up merging together.
A collision occurs when two stars are orbiting each other until they eventually meet, which sets off a range of other celestial events.
It’s interesting to see the varying characteristics of different types of stars.
Creation Of A Type One-A Supernova
With white dwarf stars, they’re known to create a type one-A supernova when they end up making a collision.
To explain further, critical mass is reached with one white dwarf when the larger star’s gases are stripped, which creates an accretion disk surrounding the other.
At this point, an explosion occurs, ejecting an immense amount of material from one star far into outer space.
Neutron Star or Black Hole
Another type of collision that’s fairly similar entails neutron stars which can come together due to extremely powerful gravitational radiation.
Once a collision happens with neutron stars, there’s a chance that one of two different outcomes will take place.
They will either merge to create a massive neutron star or create a black hole which can significantly affect the space around it.
One of the last types of common collisions regards binary star systems, which are two stars that orbit close to each other.
They can exist like this for quite some time, and a collision isn’t guaranteed, but this is mainly due to how stable their orbits are.
If they become unstable, there’s a good chance that a collision will occur, and it could either create a merged star or a supernova event.
Although there are many common types of star collisions, scientists are still learning more about them and discovering new findings as time goes on.
What Does It Look Like When Stars Collide
As devastating as star collisions can be, they’re definitely a sight to behold as they generate plenty of light and color that’s quite beautiful. Regardless of which type of stars collide, it’s guaranteed to deliver a light show that can be seen from very far away. Whether they merge or create a supernova event, a variety of bright colors and light will create a show that, many times, can be seen from Earth.
Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about the Sun engaging in a collision, but many other stars throughout the universe are inching toward that process as we speak.
From binary star systems, gravitational forces they can’t escape, and influence from black holes, stars will continue to put on light shows due to collisions.
Even if it seems like a destructive event, the material and energy they create act as building blocks for new celestial objects. In some ways, you could look at is part of the life cycle for objects in outer space.
At this time, we don’t have a massive stockpile of high-quality photos or footage of star collisions as a majority of them happen very far away, but scientists have been able to catch a glimpse here or there.
From our perspective, stars colliding simply looks like an extra bright star in our night sky.
With the right equipment, a collision can be seen, and the light it generates will stand out from any surrounding objects in the night sky.
You can find many artist renditions of star collisions online, but a lot of these visuals are just an idea of what collisions and orbiting stars look like.
We may not have a ton of high-quality visual data on such an event, but based on what we know about stars, we have a pretty good idea of what it would look like with a front-row view.
No matter which outcome occurs from stars colliding, you can expect a show of colors and energy being shot out in all directions.
It’s also important to remember that every step of this process is very drawn out, and it can take years for aspects of the event to change physically.
The supernova event itself only takes around 100 seconds to actually take place, but the after-effects could take much longer to dissipate.
Do stars collide often?
It’s thought that there are around 400 billion stars throughout the universe, and even with this steep number, stars only collide roughly once every 10,000 years. In most cases, these events occur in places with a high density of stars.
When stars collide, there’s a domino effect of events that come with a range of pros and cons for the universe.
Overall, we should probably be thankful that stars aren’t colliding more frequently as they create massive explosions and potentially dangerous black holes.
Aside from the potential dangers, star collisions are necessary to continue the life cycle of our universe.
Many of the materials that are ejected from stars colliding can be found right here on Earth.
This is just one example of how Earth came to be, as it’s evident that many materials from our universe were necessary to create the planet we know and love.
Some of the most common elements that come from these collisions are platinum, gold, and uranium.
Many stars are tangled in a binary system, while other collisions happen due to the force of nearby black holes. Scientists always keep an eye open for these events for the chance to study them further.
Star collisions may only happen once every 10,000 years, but the energy and elements they eject could last for much longer. It’s an essential aspect of life in the universe as a whole.
Part of why it takes such a long time for this event to occur is the drawn-out process of stars orbiting each other.
It isn’t a very rapid or fast-paced event until they collide.
Star colliding can be a beautiful sight, but we should be pretty thankful these types of events aren’t happening within range of our way of life.
When Do Stars Collide?
Not only do stars collide once every 10,000 years, but the finite point at which the event takes place is hard to pinpoint. Although, when stars do collide, they make themselves well known as supernova events only last for about 100 seconds. Scientists may have a general time frame for when star collisions happen, but the exact moment when they come together will be known once the light show begins.
With the unpredictable nature of our universe, it’s nearly impossible to detect a celestial event down to the exact moment unless they occur on a strict schedule.
Stars can orbit each other in very close proximity before a collision actually occurs.
Once the gravitational force is too immense and they start to come in close contact, the collision won’t be too far off.
Stellar collisions will continue to happen as time moves on, but when they actually collide may always act as a surprise.
There are many different ways scientists can predict when a star collision may occur, but they’d have to monitor a binary system consistently to actually catch the moment.
There’s always the possibility that technological advancements can help experts be more definitive about the exact moment these occur.
For now, we simply have a general idea, but we do have the capability to monitor such events closely over long periods of time.
Visually, it can be pretty apparent when two stars are orbiting each other closely, but when they cross the line into a collision can be a mystery.
Nevertheless, scientists are equipped to catch these moments when they do happen, and if the star is within our viewable range, we won’t miss collecting data on the event.
The universe has a way of offering surprises on a consistent basis. We may have a general idea of when a stellar collision will take place, but it also requires a significant amount of patience not to miss the exact moment two stars come together.
Other star guides you may want to check out:
- Do Stars Burn Out?
- Do Stars Move At Night?
- Why Do Stars Appear To Move Across The Sky?
- Why Do Stars Twinkle Red And Blue?
- Can Astronauts See Stars In Space?
- How Many Stars Are Visible From Earth Without A Telescope?
- Why Do Planets Look Like Stars?
- Can You See The North Star From The Southern Hemisphere?
- Telescope or Binoculars For Stargazing?
Hey, my name is Chris. I’m a passionate and seasoned astronomer who loves nothing more than observing the night sky. I also love researching, learning, and writing all things Space and the Universe. I created Astronomy Scope to share my knowledge, experience, suggestions, and recommendations of what I have learned along the way while helping anyone to get into and maximize their enjoyment of the hobby.