This object could possibly be an ultra-long-period magnetar, an uncommon variety of stars known for its incredibly potent magnetic fields and capacity to release intense energy surges.
Astronomers Find New Stellar Object That Challenges Neutron Star Physics
In an unprecedented discovery, astronomers from Curtin University, under the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Australia, have found a new stellar object that challenges neutron star physics. This object could possibly be an ultra-long-period magnetar, an uncommon variety of stars known for its incredibly potent magnetic fields and capacity to release intense energy surges.
Unveiling an Unseen Universe
Historically, magnetars have been known to discharge energy in a time frame spanning a few seconds to minutes. The newly identified object breaks away from the convention, transmitting radio waves at 22-minute intervals – the longest such period ever recorded for a magnetar. The finding is credited to the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), a radio telescope nestled in the Wajarri Yamaji Country, located in the Western Australian wilderness.
GPM J1839-10: An Astrophysical Puzzle
The lead author of the discovery, Dr. Natasha Hurley-Walker, explains that this newly christened magnetar, GPM J1839-10, resides about 15,000 light-years from Earth in the Scutum constellation. “This exceptional object compels us to reconsider our comprehension of neutron stars and magnetars – some of the most enigmatic and extreme objects in the Universe,” she expresses.
Only the second object of its kind, the first being found by research scholar Tyrone O’Doherty from Curtin University, its discovery initially baffled the scientific community.
New Stellar Object: GPM J1839-10
In a ‘Nature’ article published in January 2022, the team unveiled an elusive transitory object, which emerged and vanished sporadically, emitting potent energy beams three times an hour. Dr. Hurley recalls the initial surprise the object caused: “We were completely at a loss,” she says, “so we began our quest for similar objects to ascertain whether it was a lone occurrence or just the tip of the iceberg.”
Pursuit for More Stellar Objects
From July through September 2022, the team scanned the celestial skies using the MWA telescope. They quickly located what they were hunting for in GPM J1839-10, a celestial body that releases energy bursts lasting up to five minutes, five times longer than the first object. To confirm the discovery and delve into the unique attributes of the object, several other telescopes were utilized.
These telescopes included three CSIRO radio telescopes in Australia, the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa, the Grantecan (GTC) telescope, and the XMM-Newton space telescope. Equipped with GPM J1839-10’s coordinates and celestial features, the team also sifted through observational archives of the world’s premier radio telescopes.
Crossing the “Line of Death”
Most magnetars don’t produce radio waves; some reside below the “line of death,” where a star’s magnetic field becomes too weak to create high-energy emissions. “The object we’ve discovered spins too slowly to generate radio waves; it’s below the line of death,” states Hurley-Walker.
A Step Toward Understanding Neutron Star Physics
The extraordinary discovery prompts scientists to reassess our understanding of neutron star physics and the behavior of magnetic fields in extreme conditions. It also instigates new questions about the formation and evolution of magnetars and may shed light on the enigmatic phenomena of fast radio bursts.
Looking to the Future
The research team anticipates conducting new observations of the magnetar to better comprehend its characteristics and behavior. Furthermore, they aim to discover more of these mysterious celestial objects, determining if they are indeed ultra-long-period magnetars or perhaps something even more astounding.
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