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Swift XRT image of RCW 103
Credit: NASA; Swift; P. Esposito et al.


Slow Slowing Spin

We've discussed the supernova remnant RCW 103 before: a rather young X-ray bright nebula which contains perhaps one of the most unique objects in astrophysics at its center. This object, shown in the center of the RCW 103 image above (obtained by the X-ray Telescope on the Swift space observatory), is probably a neutron star, but if so a strange one. Unlike most spinning neutron stars, which usually spin many times per second, this weird object only spins once every 6.7 hours. This slow rotation is a real puzzle. If the neutron star has slowed with age, it's extremely slow spin indicates an enormous age of more than a million years. This is at odds with the age of the nebula, which is estimated to be only 2000 years old. But the neutron star is presumably the compact core of the star that exploded to create the supernova remnant, so the remnant and the neutron star should have the same age. Recent observations with the Swift XRT have allowed astronomers for the first time to put the best upper limits on how quickly the neutron star's spin is slowing. The rate at which the spin slows down is so small that certain models of the evolution of the neutron star can be ruled out. But the mystery remains; stay tuned.
Published: August 8, 2011


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Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!
Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Sunday, 14-Aug-2011 16:56:21 EDT