Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Neutron stars join the black hole jet set

28.06.2007
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has revealed an X-ray jet blasting away from a neutron star in a binary system. This discovery may help astronomers understand how neutron stars as well as black holes can generate powerful beams of relativistic particles.

The jet was found in Circinus X-1, a system where a neutron star is in orbit around a star several times the mass of the Sun, about 20,000 light years from Earth. A neutron star is an extremely dense remnant of an exploded star consisting of tightly packed neutrons.

Many jets have been found originating near black holes - both the supermassive and stellar-mass variety - but the Circinus X-1 jet is the first extended X-ray jet associated with a neutron star in a binary system. This detection shows that the unusual properties of black holes - such as presence of an event horizon and the lack of an actual surface - may not be required to form powerful jets.

"Gravity appears to be the key to creating these jets, not some trick of the event horizon," said Sebastian Heinz of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who led the study.

The discovery of this jet with Chandra also reveals how efficient neutron stars can be as cosmic power factories. Heinz and his colleagues estimate that a surprisingly high percentage of the energy available from material falling onto the neutron star is converted into powering the jet.

"In terms of energy efficiency across the Universe, this result shows that neutron stars are near the top of the list," said Norbert Schulz, a coauthor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. "This jet is almost as efficient as one from a black hole."

The Chandra results also help to explain the origin of diffuse lobes of radio emission previously detected around Circinus X-1. The team found the X-ray jets of high-energy particles are powerful enough to create and maintain these balloons of radio-emitting gas.

"We’ve seen enormous radio clouds around supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies," said Heinz. "What's unusual here is that this pocket-sized version, relatively speaking, is being powered by a neutron star, not a black hole."

The main evidence for the newly found jet comes in two extended features in the Chandra data. These two fingers of X-ray emission are separated by about 30 degrees and may represent the outer walls of a wide jet. When overlapped with radio images, these X-ray features, which are at least five light years from the neutron star, closely trace the outline of the radio jet.

Another interpretation is that these two features represent two separate, highly collimated jets produced at different times by a precessing neutron star. That is, the neutron star wobbles like a top as it spins and the jet fires at different angles at different times.

Jet precession is also consistent with radio observations taken at different times, which show varying orientation angles of the jet. If the precession scenario is correct, Circinus X-1 would possess one of the longest, narrowest jets found in X-ray binary systems to date, representing yet another way in which neutron stars can rival and even outdo their larger black hole relatives.

Contact: Megan Watzke | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cfa.harvard.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold
26.06.2017 | Toyohashi University of Technology

nachricht A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL
23.06.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

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 we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement

26.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold

26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Switchable DNA mini-machines store information

26.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>