Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Astrophysicists Discover 'Compact Jets' From Neutron Star

Date:
May 30, 2006
Source:
University of California - San Diego
Summary:
Compact jets that shoot matter into space in a continuous stream at near the speed of light have long been assumed to be a unique feature of black holes. But these odd features of the universe may be more common than once thought.

Artist concept shows jets of material shooting out from the neutron star.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC)

Compact jets that shoot matter into space in a continuous stream at near the speed of light have long been assumed to be a unique feature of black holes. But these odd features of the universe may be more common than once thought.

Astrophysicists using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope recently spotted one of these jets around a super-dense dead star, confirming for the first time that neutron stars as well as black holes can produce these fire-hose-like jets of matter. A paper detailing their surprising discovery appears in this week’s issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"For years, scientists suspected that something unique to black holes must be fueling the continuous compact jets because we only saw them coming from black hole systems,” said Simone Migliari, an astrophysicist at the University of California, San Diego’s Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences and the lead author of the paper. “Now that Spitzer has revealed a steady jet coming from a neutron star in an X-ray binary system, we know that the jets must be fueled by something that both systems share.”

A neutron star X-ray binary system occurs when a normal star orbits a dead star that is so dense all of its atoms have collapsed into neutrons, hence the name “neutron star.” The normal star circles the neutron star the same way Earth orbits the Sun.

Migliari and his colleagues from four institutions in the U.S. and Europe used Spitzer's super sensitive infrared eyes to study a jet in one such system called 4U 0614+091. In this system, the neutron star is more than 14 times the mass of its orbiting stellar companion.

As the smaller star travels around its dead partner, the neutron star's intense gravity picks up material leaving the smaller star’s atmosphere and creates a disk around itself. The disk of matter, or accretion disk, circles the neutron star similar to the way rings circle Saturn. According to Migliari, accretion disks and intense gravitational fields are characteristics that black holes and neutron stars in X-ray binaries share.

“Our data show that the presence of an accretion disk and an intense gravitational field may be all we need to form and fuel a compact jet,” he said.

Typically, radio telescopes are the tool of choice for observing compact jets around black holes. At radio wavelengths, astronomers can isolate the jet from everything else in the system. However, because the compact jets of a neutron star can be more than 10 times fainter than those of a black hole, using a radio telescope to observe a neutron star's jet would take many hours of observations.

With Spitzer's supersensitive infrared eyes, Migliari's team detected 4U 0614+091's faint jet in minutes. The infrared telescope also helped astronomers infer details about the jet's geometry. System 4U 0614+091 is located approximately 10,000 light years away in the constellation Orion.

Other co-authors of the paper are John Tomsick of UCSD; Thomas Maccarone, Rob Fender and David Russell of the University of Southampton, UK; Elena Gallo of UC Santa Barbara; and Gijs Nelemans of the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Spitzer Space Telescope and science operations for the mission are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - San Diego. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - San Diego. "Astrophysicists Discover 'Compact Jets' From Neutron Star." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 May 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060530084630.htm>.
University of California - San Diego. (2006, May 30). Astrophysicists Discover 'Compact Jets' From Neutron Star. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060530084630.htm
University of California - San Diego. "Astrophysicists Discover 'Compact Jets' From Neutron Star." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060530084630.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) — NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX on Tuesday to build America's next spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017, opening the way to a new chapter in human spaceflight. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Picks Boeing and SpaceX to Ferry Astronauts

NASA Picks Boeing and SpaceX to Ferry Astronauts

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — NASA is a giant step closer to launching Americans again from U.S. soil. It has announced it has picked Boeing and SpaceX to transport astronauts to the International Space Station in the next few years. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins