Researchers have discovered a neutron star with a strong magnetic field that emits powerful radio jets.
A recently discovered neutron star which ejects powerful radio jets is now challenging a long-held scientific assumption. Apparently, unlike previously observed jet-spewing neutron stars, this newly discovered star, known as Swift J0243.6+6124, has a strong magnetic field. According to a current space theory, neutron stars, which are also called stellar corpses, have weak magnetic fields.
“They’re formed when a massive star runs out of fuel and undergoes a supernova, with the central parts of the star collapsing under their own gravity. This collapse causes the star’s magnetic field to increase in strength to several trillion times that of our own sun, which then gradually weakens again over hundreds of thousands of years,” James Miller-Jones, an Associate Professor from the Curtin University’s node of the International Centre from Radio Astronomy Research, explained.
Swift J0243.6+6124 is estimated to be around 24,000 light-years away from Earth and is located in a remote region of the constellation Cassiopeia. Using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array Radio Telescope in New Mexico and NASA’s Swift Observatory, the researchers were able to find the relativistic jets coming from the neutron star.
According to studies, while black holes and neutron stars both emit jets when feeding materials from their companion stars, only black holes launch powerful jets. In fact, black holes are considered undisputed kings of launching radio jets.
Furthermore, neutron stars — which are known to have weaker magnetic fields — only produce weak jets that just become bright when they consume gas from their binary companion. However, Swift J0243.6+6124 has a magnetic field which is 10 trillion times stronger than the sun.
“The magnetic field of the neutron star we studied is about 10 trillion times stronger than that of our own Sun, so for the first time ever, we have observed a jet coming from a neutron star with a very strong magnetic field. The discovery reveals a whole new class of jet-producing sources for us to study,” Jakob van den Eijnden, a Ph.D. student from the University of Amsterdam who led the study, said.
For years, scientists studied jets to better understand how the extracted gravitational energy from neutron stars and black holes are returned to their surrounding environment. Since this new finding goes against what they expected, it only shows that there is still a lot that they need to learn about how these celestial bodies and their radio jets.
“Whatever the explanation, our result is a great example of how science works, with theories being developed, tested against observations and revised in light of new experimental results,” Miller-Jones went on to say. “It also provides us with a new class of sources to test how magnetic fields affect the launching of jets, helping us to understand this key feedback mechanism in the universe.”