World Premiere: Dead Star Spotted while it Was Devouring its Neighbor

As it’s marching along with its expansion, the Universe unfolds not only creation events like star births. Supermassive black holes devouring stars, star collisions, quasars, or supernovas are also quite common out there in the vast ocean of our reality.

For the first time ever, astronomers spotted a pulsar powering up right before it devoured a nearby star and shot a significant amount of X-rays into space. And they believe that the discovery sheds light on how accreting neutron star systems work. Furthermore, the understanding of how the outbursts are triggered could be enhanced as well.

11,000 light-years from Earth

Luckily for us, the pulsar is located way too far away from Earth to be able of posing any threat. The pulsar has been dubbed as SAX J1808.4-3658, it’s located in the constellation Sagittarius, and it has around 401 rotations every second. SAX J1808.4-3658 circles its star every two hours. The scientists had been using some sophisticated tools for spotting the pulsar, with NASA’s Swift X-Ray Observatory and the Nicer Instrument were included.

Adelle Goodwin, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the Monash School of Physics and Astronomy, declared:

These observations allow us to study the structure of the accretion disk, and determine how quickly and easily material can move inwards to the neutron star,

Goodwin also gave some detail about how the astronomers could find the pulsar:

Using multiple telescopes that are sensitive to light in different energies we were able to trace that the initial activity happened near the companion star, in the outer edges of the accretion disk, and it took 12 days for the disk to be brought into the hot state and for material to spiral inward to the neutron star, and X-rays to be produced,

The researchers presented their work at the virtual American Astronomical Society and published it in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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