A very rare kind of undead star 30,000 light years away caught astronomers' attention this month by vomiting up masses of x-rays and gamma rays so rapidly that it shocked researchers.
This kind of neutron star is known as a magnetar. It's the dense, burning remains of a dead star that spins extremely rapidly (one rotation every 2.7 seconds!) and shoots out energy in ultrafast, ultrahot bursts. According to Scientific American:
Dubbed SGR J1550-5418, the object lies in a small southern constellation called Norma. The designation SGR reflects the object's classification as a soft gamma repeater, an even rarer category of magnetar that fires off irregular bursts of x-rays and gamma rays . . . "At times, this remarkable object has erupted with more than a hundred flares in as little as 20 minutes," Loredana Vetere, a research associate at Pennsylvania State University who works on the Swift project, said in a statement. "The most intense flares emitted more total energy than the sun does in 20 years."
You can see a video of what the magnetar looked like as it blew off so many particles over a matter of days.
SOURCE: Scientific American
Image via NASA/CXC/M.Weiss