European satellite observed eruption of magnetar in nearby galaxy

The INTEGRAL satellite recorded an unexpected burst of gamma radiation, which came from the neighboring galaxy M82. Scientists believe that its source was the eruption of a magnetar, a young neutron star with amazing properties.

Magnetar. Source:

Flare of radiation in the M82

One of the best instruments for discovering transient, that is, short-term events today is the INTEGRAL satellite created by the European Space Agency. It observes the starry sky in the gamma range and has a field of view that is 3,000 times the coverage of the sky by the full moon.

Due to this, INTEGRAL records gamma-ray bursts more often than other observatories. Usually these phenomena appear out of nowhere and last only a few seconds. The reason is that they are extremely powerful and therefore come to us from very distant galaxies.

However, the source of the gamma-ray burst, which was recorded on November 15, 2023, was clearly identified. Moreover, it is located in the relatively nearby galaxy M82. The distance to it is 12 million light-years.

Scientists almost instantly realized that this was something that needed to be investigated immediately, and just a few hours later they aimed the XMM-Newton space telescope at M82. However, it could not find any traces of an explosion. Only an increased thermal background.

Magnetar eruption

The fact that XMM-Newton is not so mysterious to scientists, because they knew that such a situation could arise. There are two types of gamma-ray bursts. Short gamma-ray bursts occur when two neutron stars collide. Usually, gravitational waves remain after them, as well as afterglow in the X-ray and visible ranges.

Long flares occur when a magnetar interacts with the surrounding matter in some not very clear way and this causes peculiar eruptions of matter and energy. Since scientists did not see any glow in M82, it is obvious that in this case we are talking about this particular case.

Magnetars are one of the most mysterious objects in space. These are also neutron stars, but they have one incredible feature — a magnetic field that is millions of times higher than anything that people can get in terrestrial laboratories. Scientists are still not sure how they arise.

However, they have no doubt that it is the magnetic fields of magnetars that are the root cause of the fact that long gamma-ray bursts are so powerful. These are really huge explosions. For example, in December 2004, one of them reached earth, the source of which was only 30 thousand light-years away. Its effect on the Earth’s atmosphere was quite commensurate with the solar flare.

The events in the M82 galaxy did not allow scientists to properly study the flare itself. However, the very place where it happened already says a lot about it. This happened in a region of active star formation, full of young and hot luminaries. Their life span is quite short and should end with a supernova explosion. This led the researchers to believe that the magnetar could be a young neutron star.

According to

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