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Space is filled with bizarre signals that we scramble to put meaning to — and now, researchers have detected yet another mysterious signal. This one emanated from near a neutron star, and for the first time, it's infrared.
So, what's nearby that could have created the weird signal? Scientists have a few ideas.
Neutrons - Stars - Name - Neutrons - Neutron
Neutrons stars are very dense and, as their name suggests, are made up mostly of closely packed neutrons. Neutron stars can also be called "pulsars" if they are highly magnetized and rotate rapidly enough to emit electromagnetic waves, according to Space.com.
Typically, neutron stars emit radio waves or higher-energy waves such as X-rays, according a statement released by NASA yesterday (Sept. 17). But an international group of researchers from Penn State, the University of Arizona and Sabanci University in Turkey observed something interesting in NASA's Hubble Space Telescope data: a long signal of infrared light emitted near a neutron star, the researchers reported yesterday in The Astrophysical Journal.
Signals - Author - Bettina - Posselt - Research
Such extended signals have been observed before, but never in the infrared, lead author Bettina Posselt, an associate research professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, told Live Science.
This illustration depicts a "pulsar wind nebula" another source that could have produced this infrared signature.
Data - Amount - Radiation - Star - Posselt
Based on previous data, the amount of infrared radiation is much more than the neutron star should be emitting, Posselt said. So "all of the emission in infrared we see is likely not coming from the neutron star itself," Posselt said. "There's something more."
The neutron star in question, RX J0806.4-4123, is one of the nearby X-ray pulsars collectively known as the Magnificent Seven. They are bizarre characters: They rotate much more slowly than typical neutron stars (it takes 11 seconds for one rotation of RX J0806.4-4123, whereas typical...
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