In 2020, astronomers added a new member to a family of exotic objects, i.e the discovery of a magnetar. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has made new observations, stating that the magnetar also acts as a pulsar. But what’s a pulsar? A magnetar? Well, let’s demystify this space jargon!
Crux of the Matter
What Is The Chandra X-ray Observatory?
Called one of the great observatories like Hubble telescope, it is a space telescope launched aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1999, during STS-93 by NASA. It is sensitive to X-ray sources 100x fainter than any previous X-ray telescope, enabled by the high angular resolution of its mirrors.
Known as the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF) previously, it was later renamed after the Nobel Prize-winning Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.
What Is A Magnetar?
It is a star which is made up of tightly packed neutrons, formed from the collapsed core of a massive star during a supernova.
How Is It Different From Other Stars?
Also called a magnetic star, it has the most powerful magnetic field in the universe. For context, Earth’s magnetic field is 1 Gauss, a refrigerator magnet is 100 Gauss while a magnetar measures a million billion Gauss! This intensity heats the surface to 18 million° F.
How Was The Latest One Detected?
Using NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Telescope in 2020. Dubbed as J1818.0-1607, it is the youngest (500 years old) and 31st known magnetar, out of the 3,000 known neutron stars.
How Is This Age Estimation Done?
Based on how quickly the rotation rate is slowing and the assumption that it was born spinning much faster. This one spins faster than any previously known magnetar, rotating once every 1.4 seconds.
What Did Chandra Find Out Then?
It gave astronomers the first high-resolution view of the magnetar, revealing a point source where it was located, 21,000 light-years from Earth and how it gives off radio waves.
Only 5 magnetars have been recorded like this, making them 0.2% of the known neutron star population. Moreover, J1818.0-1607 is also converting energy more efficiently from its decreasing rate of a spin into X-rays, and this efficiency matches the range of pulsars.
What Does This Mean?
The magnetar has properties similar to a “rotation-powered pulsar,” a neutron star which gives off beams of radiation, detected as repeating pulses of emission as it rotates and slows down.
- NASA’s series of Great Observatories satellites are four large, powerful space-based astronomical telescopes launched between 1990 and 2003. They were built with different technology to examine specific wavelength/energy regions of the electromagnetic spectrum: gamma rays, X-rays, visible and ultraviolet light, and infrared light.
- Edwin Powell Hubble was an American astronomer. He played a crucial role in establishing the fields of extragalactic astronomy and observational cosmology. The Hubble telescope is named after him.
- Riccardo Giacconi was an Italian-American Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist who laid down the foundations of X-ray astronomy. In 1976 the Chandra X-ray Observatory was proposed to NASA by Riccardo Giacconi.