Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Exotic magnetar has extremely strong magnetic fields

Date:
March 2, 2010
Source:
Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias
Summary:
Astronomers have observed an uncommon neutron star. Classified as magnetar, its nature is as peculiar as its official name: SGR 0418+5729. The observations reached an unprecedented depth at optical wavelengths for this kind of sources, helping in constraining the physical properties of this celestial body characterized by extremely strong magnetic fields.

Artistic representation of a magnetar. The energy stored in its ultra-strong magnetic field is released as burst of gamma-rays, escaping from fractured produced in the stellar crust by the field itself.
Credit: Conceptual images Lab, Goddard Space Center, NASA

The Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC) has observed an uncommon neutron star. Classified as magnetar, its nature is as peculiar as its official name: SGR 0418+5729. The observations at the largest optical telescope of the world reached an unprecedented depth at optical wavelengths for this kind of sources, helping in constraining the physical properties of this celestial body characterized by extremely strong magnetic fields.

Neutron stars form when massive stars, between 10 to 50 times the solar mass, explode as supernova at the end of their life. While the external layers of the star are ejected into space, its nucleus collapses under its own weight with such a strong force that protons and electrons joins into neutron to occupy less space, reaching unbeliveably high densities and becoming neutron stars. The density is so high that these "stellar remnants concentrate a mass comparable to the one of the Sun within the volume of a sphere of only 30 kilometers of diameter, the space occupied by a large city," points out Paolo Esposito, principal investigador of the project from the Italian Institute of Astrophysics.

Among this type of stars astronomers set aside the magnetars -- name obtained joining the words magnet and star -, of which only six are presently known. "Magnetars do have a magnetic field thousand times stronger than that of normal neutron stars, millions of times superior that the most intense field that can be produced in our terrestrial laboratories. Indeed, these are the most powerful magnets in the Universe," explains Paolo Esposito.

Due to movements of the magnetic field, fractures are produced periodically in the star's outer crust, from which intense bursts of light escape, mostly low energy gamma-rays. It is precisely these bursts of light what GTC tried to detect.

Evidences of a violent universe

Magnetars have been mostly studied in the X-ray domain, and little is known of their properties at optical wavelengths. Following detection by the NASA Fermi and Swift satellites of a series of explosions of SGR 0418+5729, the team of investigators promptly requested a deep followup observation with GTC.

The opportunity to observe arrived on last September 15, when the object was still bright in the X-ray band. The optical emission, however, was so faint that not even the very sensitive instrument OSIRIS, coupled to the largest telescope of the world, could detect it. Nevertheless, the observation was the deepest ever obtained for this class of objects, placing strong limits on the physical properties of magnetars.

According to the italian investigator, GTC observations are "key to understand how and where the emission originates, helping to clarify the basic physical characteristics of these ultra-strong magnetic fields."

The images of the last member of this family obtained with GTC add a new piece of information to the limited but growing data base of optical and infrared observations of these peculiar and violent celestial bodies, widening the opportunities to study a whole range of very high energetic objects.

The team that carried out the study of this exotic star included scientists from Italy, Spain, France, and United Kingdom. Their results will appear this week in the publication of the Royal Astronomical Society.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias. "Exotic magnetar has extremely strong magnetic fields." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100301163700.htm>.
Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias. (2010, March 2). Exotic magnetar has extremely strong magnetic fields. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100301163700.htm
Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias. "Exotic magnetar has extremely strong magnetic fields." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100301163700.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) The B612 Foundation says asteroids strike Earth much more often than previously thought, and are hoping to build an early warning system. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) NASA administrator Charles Bolden, speaking at the 'Human to Mars Summit' in Washington, says that learning more about the Red Planet can help answer the 'fundamental question' of 'life beyond Earth'. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) NASA is inviting all social media users to take a selfie of themselves alongside nature and to post it to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, or Google Plus with the hashtag #globalselfie. NASA's goal is to crowd-source a collection of snapshots of the earth, ground-up, that will be used to create one "unique mosaic of the Blue Marble." This image will be available to all in May. Since this is probably one of the few times posting a selfie to Twitter won't be embarrassing, we suggest you give it a go for a good cause. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 20, 2014) SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft makes a scheduled Easter Sunday rendezvous with the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
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