Illustration of GRB 041227 explosion (Click to Play Movie)
Credit: NSF; NASA

Shaking the Fields

A strange, tiny, dead star lit up the sky on December 27, 2004. The flash came from across the Galaxy, in deep space, and, for a tenth of a second, outshone all the other stars in the sky. The object, a so-called "Soft Gamma-Ray Repeater", is a neutron star with an extremely strong magnetic field. Such stars are called magnetars, and astronomers know only about a handful of them. The burst was believed to have been produced by a tremor in the superstrong magnetic field, of a type that actually happens on our Sun, but on a vastly larger scale. The image above is a still from a movie showing how the burst happened and how the flash was detected by the Swift spacecraft and by the radio telescopes of the Very Large Array.

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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 Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:28:21 EDT