Ferocious Wind Nebula Around Magnetar Observed for First Time

Giving us a rare, unique window into the environment and emission history of the strongest magnets in the cosmos

This X-ray image shows extended emission around a source known as Swift J1834.9-0846, a rare ultra-magnetic neutron star called a magnetar. The glow arises from a cloud of fast-moving particles produced by the neutron star and corralled around it. Color indicates X-ray energies, with 2,000-3,000 electron volts (eV) in red, 3,000-4,500 eV in green, and 5,000 to 10,000 eV in blue. The image combines observations by the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton spacecraft taken on March 16 and Oct. 16, 2014. Credits: ESA/XMM-Newton/Younes et al. 2016
This X-ray image shows extended emission around a source known as Swift J1834.9-0846, a rare ultra-magnetic neutron star called a magnetar. The glow arises from a cloud of fast-moving particles produced by the neutron star and corralled around it. Color indicates X-ray energies, with 2,000-3,000 electron volts (eV) in red, 3,000-4,500 eV in green, and 5,000 to 10,000 eV in blue. The image combines observations by the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton spacecraft taken on March 16 and Oct. 16, 2014.
Credits: ESA/XMM-Newton/Younes et al. 2016

Space news (astrophysics: wind nebulas; Swift J1834.9-0846) – 13,000 light-years toward the constellation Scutum in the midst of a vast cloud of high-energy, particles surrounding supernova remnant W41 –

Astronomers studying the strongest magnets discovered during the human journey to the beginning of space and time, magnetars, have detected one they haven’t seen before. A magnetar, a rare highly magnetic neutron star with a vast cloud of high-energy, recently-emitted particles called a wind nebula streaming from it. Offering a unique window into the characteristics, environment and emission history of one of the most enigmatic and eye-opening objects ever detected.

“Right now, we don’t know how J1834.9 developed and continues to maintain a wind nebula, which until now was a structure only seen around young pulsars,” said lead researcher George Younes, a postdoctoral researcher at George Washington University in Washington. “If the process here is similar, then about 10 percent of the magnetar’s rotational energy loss is powering the nebula’s glow, which would be the highest efficiency ever measured in such a system.”

This illustration compares the size of a neutron star to Manhattan Island in New York, which is about 13 miles long. A neutron star is the crushed core left behind when a massive star explodes as a supernova and is the densest object astronomers can directly observe. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
This illustration compares the size of a neutron star to Manhattan Island in New York, which is about 13 miles long. A neutron star is the crushed core left behind when a massive star explodes as a supernova and is the densest object astronomers can directly observe.
Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

An object around 13 miles (20 kilometers) in diameter, or about the length of Manhattan Island, only 29 magnetars have been detected, so far. In this particular case, the source of detected emissions is called Swift J1834.9-0846, a rare type of ultra-magnetic neutron star detected by the Swift Gamma-ray Burst Satellite on August 7, 2011. It was subsequently looked at closer a month later by a team led by Younes using the European Space Agency’s (ESA) XMM-Newton X-ray Observatory. It was at this time astronomers realized and confirmed the first wind nebula ever detected around a magnetar.

“For me, the most interesting question is, why is this the only magnetar with a nebula? Once we know the answer, we might be able to understand what makes a magnetar and what makes an ordinary pulsar,” said co-author Chryssa Kouveliotou, a professor in the Department of Physics at George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

Neutron stars are the crushed cores of massive stars left over after they have gone supernova and the densest objects astrophysicists have been able to directly observe during the human journey to the beginning of space and time. All neutron star magnetic fields detected, so far, are 100 to 10 trillion times stronger than Earth’s, and magnetar fields reach levels thousands of times stronger. Astrophysicists have no ideas on how magnetic fields of such immense strength are formed. 

 co-author Alice Harding, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Credits: NASA
Co-author Alice Harding, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Credits: NASA

“Making a wind nebula requires large particle fluxes, as well as some way to bottle up the outflow so it doesn’t just stream into space,” said co-author Alice Harding, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We think the expanding shell of the supernova remnant serves as the bottle, confining the outflow for a few thousand years. When the shell has expanded enough, it becomes too weak to hold back the particles, which then leak out and the nebula fades away. This naturally explains why wind nebulae are not found among older pulsars, even those driving strong outflows.

“The nebula around J1834.9 stores the magnetar’s energetic outflows over its whole active history, starting many thousands of years ago,” said team member Jonathan Granot, an associate professor in the Department of Natural Sciences at the Open University in Ra’anana, Israel. “It represents a unique opportunity to study the magnetar’s historical activity, opening a whole new playground for theorists like me.”

What’s next?

Astrophysicists think a magnetar outburst’s powered by energy stored in its super-strong magnetic field produced gamma rays and x-rays, along with the gales of accelerated particles making up the nebula wind detected in the case of Swift J1834.9-0846. Now, they have a mystery to figure out, and new theories to deduce to explain the way a magnetar produces a nebula wind. 

Learn about the plasma jets of active supermassive black holes.

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Read more about Swift J1834.9-0846.

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Magnetar Extremely Close to Supermassive Black Hole at Center of Milky Way

Exhibiting a higher surface temperature and slower decrease in the rate of x-rays emitted than previous neutron stars detected during the human journey to the beginning of space and time

The x-ray image here taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory shows a view of the region surrounding the supermassive black hole thought to exist at the center of the Milky Way. The red, green and blue seen in the main image are low, medium and high-energy x-rays respectively. The inset image to the left was taken between 2005 and 2008, when the magnetar wasn't detected. The image to the right was taken in 2013, when the neutron star appeared as the bright x-ray source viewed.
The x-ray image here taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory shows a view of the region surrounding the supermassive black hole thought to exist at the center of the Milky Way. The red, green and blue seen in the main image are low, medium and high-energy x-rays respectively. The inset image to the left was taken between 2005 and 2008, when the magnetar wasn’t detected. The image to the right was taken in 2013, when the neutron star appeared as the bright x-ray source viewed.

Space news (August 15, 2015) –

Space scientists working with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton Observatory in 2013 discovered a magnetar dangerously close to the supermassive black hole (Sagittarius A) thought to exist at the center of the Milky Way. At a distance of around 0.3 light-years or 2 trillion miles from the 4-million-solar mass black hole, the neutron star (called SGR 1745-2900) detected is likely orbiting slowly into the gravitational pool of the supermassive black hole. One day, far in the future, the two will merge during an event likely spectacular and unfathomable to both the scientist and layperson.

For the last two years, NASA and European space agency scientists have been monitoring SGR 1745-2900, and have discovered its acting unlike any magnetar discovered during the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

The rate of X-rays emitted by the magnetar is decreasing slower than other neutron stars viewed and its surface temperature is higher. Facts that are making astrophysicists rethink their theories on neutron stars and develop new ideas to explain how this happens.

Could the close proximity of the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A be the cause?

Considering the extreme distance between the supermassive black hole and magnetar, astrophysicists don’t think this could be the reason for the slower decrease in X-ray emissions and higher surface temperature of SGR 1745-2900. At the distance of 2 trillion miles, they believe the magnetar is too far away for the gravity and magnetic fields of the two to interact enough for this to occur.

The current model developed by astrophysicists to explain the unexpected slower rate of X-ray emissions and higher surface temperature of SGR 1745-2900 involves “starquakes”. Seismic waves astrophysicists think are more energetic than a 23rd magnitude earthquake on Earth, scientists found the starquake model doesn’t explain the slow decrease in X-ray brightness and the higher surface temperature detected.

To explain the new data obtained through study using the Chandra X-ray Observatory NASA astrophysicists have suggested a new model. The bombardment of the surface of SGR 1745-2900 by charged particles trapped within magnetic fields above its surface could add enough heat to account for the higher surface temperature and account for the slower decrease in X-ray emissions.

Study continues

NASA scientists will now continue their study of magnetar SGR 1745-2900 as it orbits Sagittarius A looking for clues to verify their new model. Study and understanding of this and other magnetars will provide clues to the events that occurred during the earliest moments of the universe. Events that can tell us more about the universe we reside in and the true nature of spacetime.

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Companion Star Eclipses X-Ray Neutron Star

X-ray pulsar Swift J1749.4-2807 is the first pulsar astronomers have witnessed being eclipsed by its companion star

April signal from Sagittarius the Archer reveals pulsar (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Astronomy News

Friday, December 30, 2011 – “Astronomy delights the soul because of the mystery

Astronomers recently detected a signal emanating from the constellation Sagittarius the Archer which after study turned out to be a type of x-ray pulsar often called an accretion-powered pulsar. Accretion-powered pulsars have to this point in the human journey to the beginning of time and space always appeared as part of a binary star system with a normal type star. In this scenario the powerful gravity field of the neutron star is able to pull material from the surface of the normal star during a process referred too as accretion. Astronomers have designated this new x-ray pulsar Swift J1749.4-2807 and believe it’s the remnant of a supernova. Spinning wildly out of control, this accretion-powered pulsar is thought to be composed of dense material with properties we know nothing about.

Astronomers believe the signal emanating from the constellation Sagittarius the Archer was produced during the accretion process as the material torn from the surface of the normal star spirals around the neutron star.  NASA scientists believe the material heats up to the point where it radiates x-rays during the process of spiralling into the region of the neutron star’s magnetic poles. X-ray detectors on near Earth telescopes detect these x-rays when a spinning neutron star lines up directly with the line of sight to Earth.

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Sagittarius the Archer

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Astronomers Bring Another Strange Creature to the Pulsar Zoo

Neutron star SGR 0418+5729 is a slowly rotating neutron star astronomers recently added to the Pulsar Zoo
This is an artist’s conception of a slowly rotating neutron star

Neutron star SGR 0418+5729 shows off

Astronomy News – The human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time’ discovered another neutron star on June 5, 2009, that’s currently keeping astronomers and space scientists busy looking into the unusual properties of this newest member of the pulsar zoo. Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra, Swift and Rossi X-ray observatories, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and ESA’s XMM-Newton telescope have been taking a look at this slowly rotating neutron star with an ordinary surface magnetic field as it gives off x-rays and gamma rays. Astronomers think the facts they have collected during their study of neutron star SGR 0418+5729 could indicate the presence of an internal magnetic field much more powerful than the surface magnetic field of this pulsar. This has definite implications in relation to the evolution of the most powerful magnets we have observed during the human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time” and astronomers are now delving into the mysteries they see within this neutron star to determine the facts.

Another strange neutron star

Astronomers looking at neutron star SGR 0418+5729 think this pulsar is one of a strange breed of neutron stars they refer too as magnetars, which normally have strong to extreme magnetic fields 20 to 100 times above the average for galactic radio pulsars they have viewed in the universe. What really has astronomers viewing SGR 0418+5729 scratching their heads is the fact that over a 490 day period of observing this pulsar astronomers saw no detectable decrease in this neutron stars rotational rate.

Astronomers think that the lack of rotational slowing of this neutron star could mean that the radiation of low-frequency waves is pretty weak, which leads them to believe the surface magnetic field of this pulsar must be quite a bit less powerful than normal. This conclusion gives astronomers another puzzle to solve, since with this thought astronomers are wondering where the energy for this neutron stars power bursts and x-ray emissions come from.

Does the power and energy creating this neutron stars power bursts and x-ray emissions originate in the twisting and amplifying of this pulsars internal magnetic field in the chaotic interior of this neutron star?

Present theories on this indicate that astronomers believe that if the internal magnetic field becomes ten or more times stronger than the surface magnetic field, the twisting or decay of the magnetic field could lead to the production of steady and bursting x-rays through the heating of the pulsar’s crust or the acceleration of particles in the magnetic field.

The question astronomers want to answer now is how large can the imbalance between the surface and interior magnetic fields be? If further observations indicate that the surface magnetic field limit is pushed too low, then astronomers will have to dig a little deeper into SGR 0418+5729 to find out why this neutron star is rotating slower.

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Explore the Celestial Zoo of Pulsars

The Crab Nebula is the remains of a star that went supernova
The Crab Nebula was one of the first pulsars viewed during the human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”

Browse the Celestial Zoo

Astronomy News – Browsing through a popular and well-read book on astronomy from the 1980s, one might get the idea astronomers have pierced the veil of secrecy surrounding stellar bodies we refer to as neutron stars. Astronomers and stargazers have boarded their time-machine-to-the-stars to journey to exotic parts of space and time to view these strange celestial bodies for decades. Astronomers have been studying the central body of the Crab Nebula for hundreds of years, watching as it emits regular apparent emissions in the direction of Earth about 30 times per second as it rotates, in what astronomers have described as a lighthouse effect.
 
The description of neutron stars in astronomy books from the 1980s isn’t necessarily incorrect, but research in the intervening years has led scientists to believe astronomy books need to be rewritten in parts and filled in a bit more. Astronomers now believe that neutron stars aren’t all born crab-like and that this scenario is only one of a menagerie of weird and unusual celestial objects they refer to as neutron stars. A menagerie of bizarre stellar bodies representing a significant percentage of the total population of neutron stars they have viewed during the human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time.”
 

Astronomers have found weird and wonderful things that astound and amaze

The menagerie of stellar bodies astronomers are bringing into the pulsar zoo are weird characters, with names like magnetars, anomalous x-ray pulsars, rotating radio transients, compact central objects, and soft gamma repeaters, and properties, unlike the famous Crab Nebula. All of these characters constitute at least ten percent of the total population of neutron stars observed and they could represent a much higher percentage. I guess it’s time to rewrite the astronomy books!
 
What kind of characters will you find in the pulsar zoo? All of the characters you’ll view in the pulsar zoo have a few common and bizarre properties. They all have masses upwards of half a million Piles of earth crammed into a sphere about 12 miles in diameter. The second most compact objects astronomers have viewed during the human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”, at the center of a neutron star lies a reality we as humans have yet to comprehend, with densities, at least, ten times the densities scientists have recorded inside the atomic nucleus. The laws of nature in this environment are beyond anything we as humans can truly understand at present, but neutron stars also have other properties.
 

Astronomers continue to study neutron stars in amazement and wonder

 
Neutron stars also rotate at a tremendously fast rate and astronomers have brought neutron stars to the pulsar zoo that rotate 700 times per second. A rate of rotation that despite the pull of gravity on the surface of this neutron star, is likely to create a slightly pancake-shaped body, due to the extreme rate of rotation of this neutron star. The question now is just how fast can a neutron star rotate?
 
What are some of the less common properties of the most bizarre members of the pulsar zoo? We’ll take you through the pulsar zoo on another day and show you some of these weird and unusual celestial bodies. Until then, “Live long and prosper”.
 
Check out my latest astronomy website at http://astronomytonight.yolasite.com/.

 

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion