Science

‘Vampire’ neutron star blasts tied to near-light-speed jet phenomenon

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New research suggests that scientists could now come closer to a conclusion about the mechanism responsible for the speeds of the steady jets launched from a neutron star, reported Space.com.

What is a neutron star?

Neutron star refers to the remains of a massive dead star that encountered a supernova explosion.  Active companion stars of neutron stars are those that are close to neutron stars’ gravitational pull, capable of stripping away material. 

Thus, neutron stars are termed “vampire neutron stars” as a companion star’s infalling material triggers thermonuclear explosions at the neutron star’s surface which causes powerful astrophysical jets to emerge at near-light speeds. Hence, makes the dead neutron star active. 

Also read: See Photo: NASA Hubble captures dwarf galaxy where new stars are forming at a rate faster than usual

Here’s what scientist suggests

Lead author and National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) scientist Thomas Russell said, “For the first time, we have been able to measure the speeds of the steady jets that are launched from a neutron star,” reported Space.com.

Also read: Watch detailed ‘X-ray image of half the sky’ here: 900,000 stars, galaxies and black holes revealed

He explained that these jets, like those from accreting black holes, are an incredibly important in our universe. Their importance comes from the fact that they impart huge amounts of energy into their surroundings. This affects star formation, galaxy growth and the process by which galaxies cluster together. 

Thomas Russell noted, “But we don’t really understand how these jets are launched,” reported Space.com.

Also read: Made-in-India SARAS telescope gives clues to first stars, galaxies of universe

The scientist further added that, previously, scientists had thought the jets could be launched either due to the rotation of material stripped from a victim star as that material spirals in. There was also the theory that the jets are connected to the spin of the rotating object itself.

This new research has offered an insight into the puzzle as to what causes these jets to be launched and how they connect to these thermonuclear bursts, that has so far remained a mystery.

Also read: NASA releases image of star-forming region from Hubble telescope

Lead in the mystery

Scientists discovered that one way to measure the speeds of those jets emerging out of neutron stars could be calculated by connecting the values to the qualities of both a neutron star and the binary companion it feasts on. 

This jet-related dilemma could potentially be resolved and would further offer insight into other objects in the universe such as such as supermassive black holes that strip matter from a companion star.

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Published: 30 Mar 2024, 06:59 PM IST

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