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!
Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State
What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?
02.12.2016 | University of Toronto
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy