Universe  ID: 11260

NASA's Swift Catches an Anti-glitch from a Neutron Star

Using observations by NASA's Swift satellite, an international team of astronomers has identified an abrupt slowdown in the rotation of a neutron star. The discovery holds important clues for understanding some of the densest matter in the universe.

While astronomers have witnessed hundreds of events, called glitches, associated with sudden increases in the spin of neutron stars, the sudden spin-down caught them off guard.

A neutron star is the crushed core of a massive star that ran out of fuel, collapsed under its own weight, and exploded as a supernova. It's the closest thing to a black hole that astronomers can observe directly, compressing half a million times Earth's mass into a ball roughly the size of Manhattan Island. Matter within a neutron star is so dense that a teaspoonful would weigh about a billion tons on Earth.

Neutron stars possess two other important traits. They spin rapidly, ranging from a few rpm to as many as 43,000, comparable to the blades of a kitchen blender, and they boast magnetic fields a trillion times stronger than Earth's.

About two dozen neutron stars occasionally produce high-energy explosions that astronomers say require magnetic fields thousands of times stronger than expected. These exceptional objects, called magnetars, are routinely monitored by a McGill team led by Kaspi using Swift's X-Ray Telescope.

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Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope

This item is part of this series:
Astrophysics Stills

SVS >> Neutron Star
SVS >> X-ray
GCMD >> Earth Science >> Spectral/Engineering >> Gamma Ray
SVS >> Astrophysics
SVS >> Pulsar
SVS >> Space
SVS >> Swift
SVS >> Fermi
SVS >> Magnetar
SVS >> Star
NASA Science >> Universe

GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation: Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version