NASA Discovers Slowest-Spinning Neutron Star With Unusual Bursts of X-Rays
Astronomers at NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have made an exciting new discovery. They've found the slowest-spinning neutron star, all thanks to its unusual bursts of X-rays. So what's so great about this new star?
The extremely dense and magnetized neutron star, also called magnetar, is found at the center of RCW 103. It is a dense cloud of dust which was left over from a supernova that lies approximately 10,700 light-years away. The star, called 1E 161348-5055 or 1E 1613 for short, is truly a unique find as it rotates a thousand times slower compared to other magnetars in existence.
"Observers had previously agreed that 1E 1613 is a neutron star, an extremely dense star created by the supernova that produced RCW 103," explained NASA officials. "However, the regular variation in the X-ray brightness of the source, with a period of about six and a half hours, presented a puzzle."
How was it discovered? Researchers from Italy's National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) first came into contact with the star after they picked up unusual bursts of X-Rays. Antonio D'Aì, the lead of the researchers, had picked up these signals through NASA's Swift telescope.
"Observations with multiple space telescopes have revealed that, while other neutron stars spin multiple times a minute, this object rotates only once about every 6.5 hours -- making it by far the slowest-spinning star in its class discovered to date," stated David Burrows, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State. "The data collected by Chandra show that this object has properties of a magnetar -- a type of neutron star with extremely powerful magnetic fields trillions of times as powerful as those of the Sun that can erupt with enormous bursts of energy."
With the current findings and data, the 1E 1613 is the 30th known magnetar in existence.