The total number of magnetars to be confirmed could soon become 25. As on June 3, a brief burst of X-rays near the plane of the Milky Way attracted the attention of the Swift Burst Burst Alert Telescope (BAT). Subsequent observation and analysis seemed to confirm that it was emitted by a previously unknown magnetar, now named Swift J1555.2-5402.
Considering that we have found very few of them in the Milky Way, any new magnetars can greatly increase our understanding of these mysterious celestial bodies.
Magnetars are a bit of a celebrity in the universe recently. They are a very rare kind of neutron star. They are the core of the stellar collapse, starting with 8 to 30 times the mass of the sun.
When these stars become supernovae and blow up their outer material, their cores collapse into some of the densest objects in the universe, about twice the mass of the sun, and squeezed into a sphere with a diameter of only 20 kilometers (12 miles).
As the name suggests, they have an incredibly strong magnetic field, about 1,000 times stronger than ordinary neutron stars, and a trillion times stronger than the Earth.
These stars are difficult to detect and therefore difficult to understand. So far, only 24 magnetars have been confirmed and there are 6 more candidates. This means that we don’t know much about them, such as how they generate such crazy magnetic fields.
A recent discovery of brought magnetars into the spotlight is that one of the mysterious stars was found to spit out a powerful radio signal called a fast radio burst, which was previously only detectable from sources outside the Milky Way, whose source it is unknown.
This also makes sense as magnetars are turbulent beasts. When gravity tries to hold the stars together, an inward force, the magnetic field is so strong that it exerts an outward force that distorts the shape of the star. This leads to the constant tension between the two forces, occasionally producing huge earthquakes and huge magnetar flashes.
Swift J1555.2-5402, which could bring the total of confirmed magnetars to 25, revealed its existence with an X-radiation burst. Subsequently, follow-up observations were made using NASA’s Neutron Star Interior Composition Detection Telescope (NICER) and Swift X-ray Telescope. Both space instruments are in orbit on the earth.
Swift discovered a new X-ray source at the explosion coordinates. NICER detected the coherent pulsation characteristics of the magnetar, “it was confirmed that the short burst was emitted by the new magnetar,” according to the astronomer’s follow-up telegram.
Complete analysis, of course, Pending, we will be eager to learn more about this newly discovered object and whether it can tell us something new.