For the first time, scientists have observed a “spiral” of matter falling into a distant neutron star, triggering an X-ray burst thousands of times brighter than the sun. The pulsar, named SAX J1808.4-3658, is located in the Sagittarius region 11,000 light-years away and is spinning at a rate of 400 times per second.
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In the collaborative study, led by Monash University in Australia, scientists observed for the first time a neutron star that was “starting up” at a variety of frequencies, including X-rays and optics. By observing its progression into the eruption, the researchers found that it took 12 days for matter to rotate inward sway and collide with neutron stars, rather than the 2-3 days most theories predict.
“This study could help us better understand the physical system sepulked by neutron stars and could reveal a long-standing mystery that has plagued astronomers — what exactly is the ‘trigger’ that caused the neutron star to erupt? David Russell, a Abu Dhabi researcher at New York University and one of the co-authors of the paper, said.
The findings will be published in the Monthly Report of the Royal Astronomical Society.