BURSTER — This double-star system, located approximately 28,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius, is a source of powerful bursts of X-ray emission. Argonne physicists have made precise measurements of exotic isotopes that explain the characteristic X-ray spectrum and luminosities of such "X-ray bursters." Illustration courtesy Dana Berry, Space Telescope Science Institute.
Argonne physicists have precisely measured the masses of nuclear isotopes that exist for only fractions of a second or can only be produced in such tiny amounts as to be almost nonexistent in the laboratory. Some isotopes had their masses accurately measured for the first time.
The results help explain the characteristic X-ray spectrum and luminosities of strange astronomical objects called "X-ray bursters."
X-ray bursters comprise a normal star and a neutron star. Neutron stars are as massive as our sun but collapsed to 10 miles across. The neutron star’s ferocious gravitational field pulls gas from its companion until the neutron star’s surface ignites in a runaway fusion reaction. For a few tens of seconds, the light from the explosion may be the most brilliant source of X-rays in the sky.
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