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Record: Fastest Flashing Star

Date:
May 10, 2004
Source:
Netherlands Organization For Scientific Research
Summary:
Dutch researcher Steve van Straaten set a record during his doctoral research. The researcher registered the fastest ever change in the X-ray emission originating from a binary star. The record-breaking binary star consists of a neutron star and a lighter companion star.
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Steve van Straaten studied binary stars. Here is an artist's impression of a binary star which consists of a neutron star and a companion normal star. Mass flows from the normal star to the neutron star via a disc. The picture was made using the program BinSim v0.8 developed by Rob Hynes. [picture captions: neutronenster = neutron star, schijf = disc, materie overdracht = material transfer, gewone ster = normal star]
Credit: Image courtesy Netherlands Organization For Scientific Research

Dutch researcher Steve van Straaten set a record during his doctoral research. The researcher registered the fastest ever change in the X-ray emission originating from a binary star. The record-breaking binary star consists of a neutron star and a lighter companion star.

Astronomer Steve van Straaten studied the time variations in the X-ray emission from various binary stars. He found that one of the binary stars had a vibrational frequency of 1330 Hz. This means that the intensity of the X-rays emitted changes 1330 times per second. That is the highest frequency ever measured for such a variation. The researcher used this information to determine the upper limit for the size and mass of the neutron star.

Neutron stars consist of the most compacted material in our universe. They have a mass comparable to that of our sun but they are about one quadrillion times smaller. If a neutron star and a normal star rotate around each other, matter can pass from the normal star to the neutron star. This happens as soon as the gravitational force of the normal star is no longer strong enough to stop its outer layers from being pulled away by the attractive force of the neutron star.

The matter originating from the star will move to the neutron star in a spiralling trajectory. The inner part of such a spiral-shaped disk and the surface of the neutron star are so hot that they emit high-energy X-rays. Changes in the intensity of this radiation are related to the movements of matter in the disk.

Van Straaten discovered that a relationship between the various movements around the neutron star is the same for different binary stars. Astronomers can use this discovery to develop new models for movement in the vicinity of a neutron star.

The research was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Netherlands Organization For Scientific Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


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Netherlands Organization For Scientific Research. "Record: Fastest Flashing Star." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 May 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/05/040510014846.htm>.
Netherlands Organization For Scientific Research. (2004, May 10). Record: Fastest Flashing Star. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/05/040510014846.htm
Netherlands Organization For Scientific Research. "Record: Fastest Flashing Star." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/05/040510014846.htm (accessed August 29, 2015).

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