MessageToEagle.com - The pulse timing of this object is considered unusual.
What kind of phenomenon is
related to this object?
It is the first time this kind of phenomenon has been observed by astronomers.
Scientists have noticed spectacular flares and bursts of energy emanating from a weakly magnetised, slowly rotating pulsar.
It is believed the that source of the pulsar's power may be hidden deep within its surface.
Pulsar are rotating neutron stars. Neutron stars are the collapsed remains of massive stars which have mass greater than 4 to 8 times that of our Sun. After these stars have finished burning their nuclear fuel, they undergo a supernova explosion.
Neutron stars are on average only about 30km in diameter, but they have hugely powerful surface magnetic fields, billions of times that of our Sun.
An artistic impression of a magnetar with a very complicated magnetic field at its interior and a simple
small dipolar field outside. (Credit: ESA/Christophe Carreau)
"The most extreme kind of pulsars have a surface magnetic field 50-1000 times stronger than normal and emit powerful flares of gamma rays and X-rays.
Named magnetars (which stands for "magnetic stars") by astronomers, their huge magnetic fields are thought to be the ultimate source of power for the
bursts of gamma rays.
Theoretical studies indicate that in magnetars the internal field is actually stronger than the surface field, a property which can deform the crust and
propagate outwards. The decay of the magnetic field leads to the production of steady and bursting X-ray emission through the heating of the neutron star
crust or the acceleration of particles."
Now it seems as if the same power source can work for weaker, non-magnetar, pulsars.
The recent discovery which has surprised astronomers was made by NASA's Chandra and Swift X-ray observatories. The study of the neutron star SGR 0418 revealed
a presence "of a huge internal magnetic field in these seemingly less powerful pulsars, which is not matched by their surface magnetic field."
"We have now discovered bursts and flares, i.e. magnetar-like activity, from a new pulsar whose magnetic field is very low," said Dr Silvia Zane, from UCL's
(University College London) Mullard Space Science Laboratory, and an author of the research.
An artist's impression of a pulsar with its surrounding magnetic fields in form of blue lines. Image Credits: Russell Kightley
"Pulsars are highly magnetized, and as they rotate winds of high-energy particles carry energy away from the star, causing the rotation rate of the star
to gradually decrease.
What sets SGR 0418 apart from similar neutron stars is that, unlike those stars that are observed to be gradually rotating more slowly, careful monitoring
of SGR 0418 over a span of 490 days has revealed no evidence that its rotation is decreasing."
"It is the very first time this has been observed and the discovery poses the question of where the powering mechanism is in this case.
At this point, we are also interested in how many of the other normal, low field neutron stars that populate the galaxy can at some point wake up and
manifest themselves as a flaring source," said Dr Zane.
"If further observations by Chandra and other satellites push the surface magnetic field limit lower, then theorists may have to dig deeper for an
explanation of this enigmatic object," said Dr Nanda Rea, Institut de Ciencies de l'Espai (ICE-CSIC, IEEC) in Barcelona, who led the discovery.
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