NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift observatory spotted a young object when it released a massive burst of X-rays.
This object is a baby neutron star known as Swift J1818.0-1607.
A new study in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters estimates that it is only about 240 years old – a veritable newborn by cosmic standards.
When a massive star becomes supernova then it explodes and then a neutron star is born. After Blackhole, Neutron star is the second densest object in the universe. Neutron stars are so dense that a teaspoon of it would weigh 4 billion tons on Earth.
The mass of this newly discovered baby neutron names as Swift J1818.0-1607 is twice the mass of our sun and volume one trillion times smaller.
Swift J1818.0-1607 belongs to a special class of objects called magnetars because it exists with a magnetic field up to 1,000 times stronger than a typical neutron star and about 100 million times stronger than the most powerful magnets made by humans.
“This object is showing us an earlier time in a magnetar’s life than we’ve ever seen before, very shortly after its formation,” said Nanda Rea, a researcher at the Institute of Space Sciences in Barcelona and principal investigator on the observation campaigns by XMM Newton and NuSTAR (short for Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array).
Swift J1818.0-1607 is only about 16,000 light-years away from us located in the constellation Sagittarius.
As light takes time to travel these cosmic distances, we are seeing the light that the neutron star emitted about 16,000 years ago, when it was about 240 years old.
Among 3000 known neutron stars, scientists have identified just 31 confirmed magnetars – including this newest entry. Because their physical properties can’t be re-created on Earth, neutron stars (including magnetars) are natural laboratories for testing our understanding of the physical world.
“Maybe if we understand the formation story of these objects, we’ll understand why there is such a huge difference between the number of magnetars we’ve found and the total number of known neutron stars,” Rea said.
Many scientific models suggest that the physical properties and behaviors of magnetars change as they age and that magnetars may be most active when they are younger. So finding a younger sample close by like this will help refine those models.
Though neutron stars are only about 10 to 20 miles (15 to 30 kilometers) wide, they can emit huge bursts of light on par with those of much larger objects.
Magnetars in particular have been linked to powerful eruptions bright enough to be seen clear across the universe. Considering the extreme physical characteristics of magnetars, scientists think there are multiple ways that they can generate such huge amounts of energy.
Swift J1818.0-1607 was spotted when it began outbursting, its X-ray emission becomes 10 times brighter than normal.
Despite X-rays, magnetars also emit the highest-energy form of light Gamma rays to the lowest energy form radio waves.
“What’s amazing about [magnetars] is they’re quite diverse as a population,” said Victoria Kaspi, director of the McGill Space Institute at McGill University in Montreal and a former member of the NuSTAR team, who was not involved with the study. “Each time you find one it’s telling you a different story. They’re very strange and very rare, and I don’t think we’ve seen the full range of possibilities.”
The new study was led by Paolo Esposito with the School for Advanced Studies (IUSS) in Pavia, Italy.
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