July 17, 2012

A Magnetic Monster’s Dual Personality

Animation illustrating the behaviour of recently discovered Swift J1822.3–1606, a ‘low-field magnetar’ with an intense internal magnetic field that ruptures through the star’s crust in bursts of X-ray emission.

The animation begins with a view of the star’s cracked crust, with organised field lines looped around the star. The surface then fades out to show the twisted internal field, which is many times stronger than its external field. A bright burst follows, and the field becomes less turbulent as the emission fades away.

The star was discovered on 14 July 2011 by NASA’s Swift space telescope and long-term X-ray monitoring was carried out by NASA’s Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer and Chandra X-ray Observatory, ESA’s XMM-Newton and Japan’s Suzaku satellite. Archived data from Germany’s X-ray satellite ROSAT and ground-based telescopes Green Bank Telescope and the Gran Telescopio Canarias also provided insight into the strange star’s curious behaviour.

Credits: ESA–C. Carreau

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