Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA's Swift, Fermi Probe Fireworks From a Flaring Gamma-Ray Star

11.02.2009
Astronomers using NASA's Swift satellite and Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope are seeing frequent blasts from a stellar remnant 30,000 light-years away. The high-energy fireworks arise from a rare type of neutron star known as a soft-gamma-ray repeater. Such objects unpredictably send out a series of X-ray and gamma-ray flares.

"At times, this remarkable object has erupted with more than a hundred flares in as little as 20 minutes," said Loredana Vetere, who is coordinating the Swift observations at Pennsylvania State University. "The most intense flares emitted more total energy than the sun does in 20 years."

The object, which has long been known as an X-ray source, lies in the southern constellation Norma. During the past two years, astronomers have identified pulsing radio and X-ray signals from it. The object began a series of modest eruptions on Oct. 3, 2008, then settled down. It roared back to life Jan. 22 with an intense episode.

Because of the recent outbursts, astronomers will classify the object as a soft-gamma-ray repeater -- only the sixth known. In 2004, a giant flare from another soft-gamma-ray repeater was so intense it measurably affected Earth's upper atmosphere from 50,000 light-years away.

Scientists think the source is a spinning neutron star, which is the superdense, city-sized remains of an exploded star. Although only about 12 miles across, a neutron star contains more mass than the sun. The object has been cataloged as SGR J1550-5418.

While neutron stars typically possess intense magnetic fields, a subgroup displays fields 1,000 times stronger. These so-called magnetars have the strongest magnetic fields of any known object in the universe. SGR J1550-5418, which rotates once every 2.07 seconds, holds the record for the fastest-spinning magnetar. Astronomers think magnetars power their flares by tapping into the tremendous energy of their magnetic fields.

"The ability of Fermi's gamma-ray burst monitor to resolve the fine structure within these events will help us better understand how magnetars unleash their energy," said Chryssa Kouveliotou, an astrophysicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The object has triggered the instrument more than 95 times since Jan. 22.

Using data from Swift's X-ray telescope, Jules Halpern at Columbia University captured the first "light echoes" ever seen from a soft-gamma-ray repeater. Images acquired when the latest flaring episode began show what appear to be expanding halos around the source. Multiple rings form as X-rays interact with dust clouds at different distances, with closer clouds producing larger rings. Both the rings and their apparent expansion are an illusion caused by the finite speed of light and the longer path the scattered light must travel.

"X-rays from the brightest bursts scatter off of dust clouds between us and the star," Halpern said. "As a result, we don't really know the distance to this object as well as we would like. These images will help us make a more precise measurement and also determine the distance to the dust clouds."

NASA's Wind satellite, the joint NASA-Japan Suzaku mission, and the European Space Agency's INTEGRAL satellite also have detected flares from SGR J1550-5418.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the Swift satellite. It is being operated in collaboration with partners in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and Japan. NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is an astrophysics and particle physics observatory developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy and with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the U.S.

To see the related images, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/swift/bursts/gammaray_fireworks.html
For more information about the Swift satellite, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/swift
For more information about the Fermi mission, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/fermi

J.D. Harrington | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/swift/bursts/gammaray_fireworks.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'
26.05.2017 | University of Leicester

nachricht Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect
24.05.2017 | Vienna University of Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>