Mysterious Slowdown of Fast-Rotating Dead Star Solved by Astronomers

Astronomers have solved the mystery behind the fast-rotating husk of a dead star’s sudden slowdown and emission of radio waves. The dead star, known as SGR 1935+2154, which is a magnetar located 30,000 light-years from Earth, mysteriously decelerated in October 2020 and released a month-long barrage of radio waves.

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Magnetars are special types of neutron stars, which are ultra dense remnants from the explosive deaths of stars. They have extremely strong magnetic fields and spin rapidly in space, emitting intense electromagnetic radiation from their poles. The slowdown was thought to be an “anti-glitch”, which is a rare event where the star slows down rather than speeds up.

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To understand what could have caused the slowdown, the researchers built a model that explained the event as a massive eruption on the star’s surface. The surface plasma from a region near one of the star’s magnetic poles spewed outward, forming a charged particle wind that interfered with the magnetar’s magnetic field and acted as a jolting brake against its rotation. The eruption is also believed to be responsible for the intense radio emissions detected.

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“Given the rarity of spin-down glitches and radio signals from magnetars, their approximate synchronicity suggests an association, providing pivotal clues to their origin and triggering mechanisms with ramifications to the broader magnetar and Fast Radio Burst populations,” the researchers wrote in their study.

The researchers believe that the findings suggest that neutron stars could have the equivalent of volcanoes on their surface, but more observations are needed to confirm their theory. This study provides a new understanding of the mysterious behavior of dead stars and has far-reaching implications for the broader field of astrophysics.

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