Astronomers Spot A Distant, Lonely Neutron Star

Posted: Jun 3 2018, 11:51am CDT | by , Updated: Jun 3 2018, 12:43pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Astronomers Spot a Distant, Lonely Neutron Star
Credit: X-ray (NASA/CXC/ESO/F.Vogt et al); Optical (ESO/VLT/MUSE & NASA/STScI)

This newly identified neutron star is a rare kind of star that has both a low magnetic field and no stellar companion

Neutron stars are the densest object astronomers can observe directly. They are formed at the end of a massive star’s life when it explodes in a supernova. Since neutron stars began their life as a typical star, they are found scattered throughout the galaxy just like an ordinary star. For the first time, astronomers have discovered a particular kind of neutron star that is located outside the Milky Way galaxy. This neutron star is a rare variety that has a low magnetic field and no stellar companion.

The neutron star is located within the remains of a supernova in the Small Magellanic Cloud. The supernova remnant, known as 1E 0102.2-7219 (E0102 for short), lies at a distance of about 200,000 light-years.

Based on data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Very Large Telescope’s Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument in Chile, researchers have pieced together a new composite image of E0102. The image reveals more details about this object that was discovered more than three decades ago.

“Chandra observations of E0102 show that the supernova remnant is dominated by a large ring-shaped structure in X-rays, associated with the blast wave of the supernova. The new MUSE data revealed a smaller ring of gas (in bright red) that is expanding more slowly than the blast wave. At the center of this ring is a blue point-like source of X-rays. Together, the small ring and point source act like a celestial bull's eye.” NASA statement reads.

The X-ray energy signature of this source in this object is very similar to that of the neutron stars located at the center of two other famous supernova remnants: Cassiopeia A (Cas A) and Puppis A. These neutron stars are also not in a binary system or do not have companion stars. The lack of extended radio emission indicates that the object is an isolated neutron star with low magnetic fields. About ten such objects have been detected in our galaxy, but this is the first a unique neutron star is discovered outside Milky Way.

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