Credit: Swift Team; NASA
Neutron Star Storm
Soft Gamma-ray Repeaters (SGRs) are a unique class of objects, producing powerful but sporadic emission of high energy gamma rays. Their gamma-ray and X-ray properties indicate that they must be isolated neutron stars, extremely dense objects only a few miles across. What sets SGRs apart is their extremely strong magnetic fields. The magnetic fields that SGRs possess are more than a billion times more powerful than the strongest magnets yet made in Florida, and strong enough to slow a speeding train from the distance of the moon. Because of this, SGRs are sometimes called "magnetars". The rapid outpouring of energy produced by magnetars is thought to be due to the fracturing of the magnetar's iron crust, causing the magnetic field to "reconnect" in a extreme example of a process similar to that which produces solar flares. The plot above shows a gamma-ray outburst from a magnetar called SGR 1900+14 as seen by the Burst Alert Telescope on the Swift Gamma-ray burst hunter. This plot shows the highly variable Gammay-ray brightness with a time resolution of milliseconds starting at 2006-03-29 02:51:39 Universal Time. This plot is a small "storm" in a much more extended period of activity for the magnetar.
Published: September 07, 2009
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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Monday, 14-Sep-2009 07:45:01 EDT