A Telescope Finds the Brightest X-Ray Burst From a Neutron Star

What happens after a star dies? First, it explodes and releasing tremendous amounts of energy, forming a supernova. The explosion can be so enormous that it could be brighter than an entire galaxy. After that, it remains a superdense core, which is called a neutron star. The neutron star can then release powerful waves of X-Ray energy into deep space, becoming a quasar. Ultimately, it will turn into a black hole, which has infinite gravitational power so that even light cannot escape from it.

Scientists just discovered the brightest X-Ray outburst ever observed, while looking into the vastness of space with the NICER telescope, mounted on the International Space Station.

SAX J1808.4-3658 is the culprit

SAX J1808.4-3658, or J1808, is a pulsar, aka a type of neutron star, or the remnants of a star that exploded. The celestial object is located 11,000 light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Sagittarius. The extremely bright burst is caused by a thermonuclear flash on the surface of the pulsar.

Lead researcher Peter Bult, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, stated:

We see a two-step change in brightness, which we think is caused by the ejection of separate layers from the pulsar surface, and other features that will help us decode the physics of these powerful events.

The pulsar releases as much energy in 20 seconds as our sun does in 10 years

This very bright, record-setting space object is classified as a Type I X-ray burst, which is the most common type. It’s identified by a brightness that rises rapidly and then declines.

The eruption on the pulsar’s surface has roots in the binary system where it belongs, and that includes a brown dwarf. The hydrogen gas comes from this object to the J1808 pulsar, forming an accretion disk. The gas then becomes so dense that some of the atoms from it will begin losing their electrons, and ionize.

The researchers published the outcome on October 23 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

 

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