A fast-spinning, ultramagnetic, 500-year-old baby neutron star has been spotted chipping at unprecedented speeds across the Milky Way.
The flicker X-ray and radio waves of this giant baby – with the beautiful name J1818.0-1607 – would probably have first appeared in the sky when Nicolaus Copernicus, the Polish scientist who proposed the sun (and not The Earth) was the center of the universe, first looking up at the heavens.
If Copernicus had orbital X-ray telescopes or powerful radios, he would have witnessed the birth of a magnetar: a super-rare, violent-looking neutron star with extreme, distorted magnetic fields. Only 500 years later (assuming astronomers have been given the right age), this screaming baby is still spinning faster than any known magnetar, with a revolution every 1
Like all neutron stars, J1818.0-1607 would appear after the explosive death of a large star – known as a supernova – as the crushed remnant of its nucleus. Neutron stars are small astrophysically, no wider than Madison, Wisconsin. But because the densest known objects in the universe, other than black holes filled with matter crushed to the point of atoms, lose their structural integrity and come together to resemble the core of a giant atom – Neutron stars can be as massive as full-size stars.
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Only a small fraction of neutron stars are magnetars. But this is not the only unusual thing about J1818.0-1607. It is also a pulsar, a kind of ultra-fast, space beacon that darkens and illuminates with each turn.
“Only five magnetars, including this one, have been recorded to act as pulsars, making up less than 0.2% of the known population of neutron stars,” said researchers involved in the NASA study. statement.
To determine the age of the magnetar, researchers track how it slows over time and calculate the speed at which it was born. It would take 500 years from its initial rotation speed until the newborn magnetar slowed to its current speed. However, this estimate of age is somewhat unreliable, according to a report published on 26 November 2020 Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Because the magnetar is so young, astronomers must be able to spot the remnants of the supernova that gave birth to it, and researchers may have discovered it at a “relatively long” distance from the magnetar. If the magnetar is indeed 500 years old and this remnant of a supernova is indeed the remnant of the magnetar’s birth, then it travels about 8 to 16 million miles per hour (13 to 26 million km / h) through the Milky Way throughout its life. faster than any of the approximately 3,000 other known neutron stars. However, if astronomers have estimated the wrong age of the magnetar or researchers have identified the wrong residue, then this young man may not be moving as fast.
But even though this baby is a newborn astronomically, it may have an even younger magnetar. Milky Way, though perhaps slower moving. As Live Science previously reported, researchers believe they may have witnessed the actual birth of a magnetar in a distant galaxy last year, making this magnetar no older than a human child.
Originally published in Live Science.