Astronomers have made a discovery that could be significant. On June 3, astronomers received a brief x-ray burst that happened close to the galactic plane. The burst was captured by the Swift Burst Alert Telescope, and follow-up analysis have seemingly confirmed the burst was emitted by a previously unknown magnetar.
The magnetar has been named Swift J1555.2-5402. If the newly discovered object is a magnetar, it brings the number of confirmed magnetars to 25. Magnetars are an extremely rare type of neutron star, which is the collapsed core of a star that began with a mass between eight and 30 times that of the sun. When those stars go supernova, the outer material is blown away, and the core collapses into one of the densest objects in the known universe.
These collapsed cores are up to twice the sun’s mass crammed into a sphere only 12 miles across. The name magnetar comes from the incredibly powerful magnetic field surrounding the object. The magnetic field generated by magnetar is about 1000 times more powerful than a normal neutron star’s magnetic field and a quadrillion times more powerful than Earth’s.
Magnetar is very difficult to tech, which makes them very hard to understand. Prior to the discovery of this new magnetar, only 24 known magnetar’s had been confirmed. However, six other potential candidates are waiting to be confirmed or denied. Follow-up observations of Swift J1555.2-5402 were conducted using the NASA Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer telescope and the Swift X-ray telescope which are both instruments orbiting the Earth.
Scientists say that Swift identified the new X-ray source at the coordinates of the burst, and NICER detected coherent pulsations characteristic of magnetars. However, scientists are clear that a complete analysis is pending. That full analysis will hopefully determine once and for all if the object is a magnetar.