NASA’s Swift Reveals New Phenomenon in a Neutron Star

Astronomers using NASA’s Swift X-ray Telescope have observed a spinning neutron star suddenly slowing down, yielding clues they can use to understand these extremely dense objects.

A neutron star is the crushed core of a massive star that ran out of fuel, collapsed under its own weight, and exploded as a supernova. A neutron star can spin as fast as 43,000 times per minute and boast a magnetic field a trillion times stronger than Earth’s. Matter within a neutron star is so dense a teaspoonful would weigh about a billion tons on Earth.

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An artist’s rendering of an outburst on an ultra-magnetic neutron star, also called a magnetar.
Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

This neutron star, 1E 2259+586, is located about 10,000 light-years away toward the constellation Cassiopeia. It is one of about two dozen neutron stars called magnetars, which have very powerful magnetic fields and occasionally produce high-energy explosions or pulses.

Observations of X-ray pulses from 1E 2259+586 from July 2011 through mid-April 2012 indicated the magnetar’s rotation was gradually slowing from once every seven seconds, or about eight revolutions per minute. On April 28, 2012, data showed the spin rate had decreased abruptly, by 2.2 millionths of a second, and the magnetar was spinning down at a faster rate…..
… Read more: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/swift/bursts/new-phenom.html

Read also: An anti-glitch in a magnetar

NASA’s Swift Sees Star Gobbled Up by Black Hole

Images from Swift's Ultraviolet/Optical (white, purple) and X-ray telescopes (yellow and red) were combined in this view of GRB 110328A, which is now known as Sw 1644+57. The blast was detected only in X-rays, which were collected over a 3.4-hour period on March 28. Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan ImmlerImages from Swift's Ultraviolet/Optical (white, purple) and X-ray telescopes (yellow and red) were combined in this view of GRB 110328A, which is now known as Sw 1644+57. The blast was detected only in X-rays, which were collected over a 3.4-hour period on March 28.

On March 28, NASA’s Swift’s Burst Alert Telescope discovered a series of powerful X-ray blasts coming from a source in the constellation Draco. Astronomers around the world studied the unusual explosion, which is now known as Sw 1644+57. More than two months later, and with high-energy X-rays still coming from the spot, astronomers are convinced they’re witnessing the destruction of a star as it plunges into the central black hole of a galaxy nearly 4 billion light-years away. The star was ripped apart by the black hole’s intense tidal forces, and its gas continues to stream inward.
“With this event, we’re seeing a new class of object in the sky, one we think is directly tied to the feeding behavior of a galaxy’s supermassive black hole,” said Neil Gehrels, Swift’s lead scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Such events likely will give us unprecedented insight into what happens deep in the heart of active galaxies, such as quasars and blazars.”
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