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SGR 0418+5729 Animations
Click for low-resolution animation
Tour of SGR 0418+5729
Quicktime MPEG With closed-captions (at YouTube)

A magnetar is a type of neutron star that occasionally generates bursts of X-rays.
They usually have a very strong magnetic field on their surface, ten to a thousand times stronger than for an average neutron star. Now, astronomers have spotted a magnetar, called SGR 0418, with a much lower magnetic field on its surface.
Data from Chandra and several other X-ray observatories was used to make this measurement. The magnetar is seen as the pink source in the middle of this image combining Chandra data with optical and infrared data. SGR 0418 is located in our galaxy about 6,500 light years from Earth. In this artist's impression we see a close-up view of SGR 0418, with a weak magnetic field on the surface and a much stronger magnetic field in the interior. These results suggest that magnetars might be much more common than previously thought. They also tell us about the massive stars and supernova explosions that create magnetars.
[Runtime: 01:28]

(Credit: NASA/CXC/J. DePasquale)

Click for low-resolution animation
A Flare for the Dramatic
Quicktime MPEG With closed-captions (at YouTube)

Never let it be said that stars don't have style: when a massive star comes to the end of its life it doesn't quietly burn out like a dying candle. Instead, it goes out with a bang, or rather an explosion that outshines almost everything else in the Universe! This explosion is called a supernova, and when this happens, the star is torn apart, throwing material into space. But something is left behind - a 'neutron star' - the remaining core of a massive star once it has exploded.

This picture might look like a jawbreaker that's been dipped in dental floss, but it actually shows an artist's impression of a very exotic type of neutron star called a "magnetar".

Magnetars are some of the most extreme objects known in the Universe. They are a very small and ultra-compact type of neutron star that erupt randomly with bursts of powerful high-energy flares. These stars were given their name because they are very strong magnets. You've probably played with magnets in school. Each magnets is surrounded by an invisible force field, called a "magnetic field".

Magnetars have notoriously strong magnetic fields - the strongest in the entire Universe, in fact! Well, except for this one. This picture shows "SGR 0418", a magnetar that doesn't fit the mould. It has a much weaker magnetic field on its surface than any other star of its kind. What makes this really puzzling is that it raises the question: where does the energy come from to power its dramatic high-energy flares? It is thought to come from the strong magnetic field. But this theory doesn't work for SGR 0418! SGR 0418 appears to be an oddity amongst oddities! Astronomers are puzzled but think that there is a much stronger magnetic field underneath the surface of SGR 0418.
[Runtime: 02:25]

(Credit: NASA/CXC/April Jubett)

Return to SGR 0418+5729 (May 23, 2013)