Sagittarius A* is dancing with a Magnetar

August 14th, 2013 § 0 comments

Until recently studying the black hole found in the center of our galaxy, Sagittarius A*, has been rather difficult. It’s for this reason that astronomers were quite excited about the discovery of pulsar PSR J1745-2900 a mere one light year away from Sgr A*.

Pulsar PSR J1745-2900 Illustration

More from Bill Andrews over at D-Brief:

Even though they’re among the most compelling topics to study, black holes are still mysterious to astronomers. Since its discovery nearly 40 years ago, the black hole at the center of our galaxy has eluded most close scrutiny because (unsurprisingly) black holes emit so little light. Luckily, a recently discovered star near the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy is now helping scientists learn about these cosmic conundrums’ eating habits.

Though it’s unclear why it took so long to find PSR J1745-2900 the fact that it is so close to Sgr A* and happens to be a magnetar make for something of an astronomy lottery win.

When a massive star dies, it can collapse in on itself, resulting in a smaller star made almost entirely of neutrons. When spinning neutron stars emit beams of radiation from their poles, they’re called pulsars (short for pulsating stars) because of the “blinking” appearance of the star in our skies — think of how a lighthouse only appears to light up when the beam hits your eyes. And certain pulsars have extremely strong magnetic fields, about 100,000 billion times stronger than Earth’s field; these are called magnetars. PSR J1745-2900 is a neutron star, and a pulsar, and a magnetar.

Find out more about this magnetar and what they have discovered about a strong magnetic field surrounding Sgt A* over at Nature.


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