Neutron Star Jets Shoot Down Theory

An artist’s impression of the binary system Swift J0243.6+6124. A binary system with a neutron star in a 27-day orbit and a more massive, rapidly-rotating donor star. The rapid rotation of the donor star throws off a disk of material around the stellar equator. As the neutron star passes through the disk during its orbit, it picks up some of this outflowing gas, which then spirals in toward the neutron star in an accretion disk. (Image: ICRAR / University of Amsterdam)
An artist’s impression of the binary system Swift J0243.6+6124. A binary system with a neutron star in a 27-day orbit and a more massive, rapidly-rotating donor star. The rapid rotation of the donor star throws off a disk of material around the stellar equator. As the neutron star passes through the disk during its orbit, it picks up some of this outflowing gas, which then spirals in toward the neutron star in an accretion disk. (Image: ICRAR / University of Amsterdam)

Astronomers have detected radio jets belonging to a neutron star with a strong magnetic field — something not predicted by current theory, according to a new study published in Nature. The team, led by researchers at the University of Amsterdam, observed the object known as Swift J0243.6+6124 using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico and NASA’s Swift space telescope.

Study co-author Associate Professor James Miller-Jones, from Curtin University’s node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) said:

An artist’s impression of the strong magnetic field neutron star in Swift J0243.6+6124 launching a jet. During the bright outburst event in which it was first discovered, the neutron star in Swift J0243.6+6124 was accreting at a very high rate, producing copious X-ray emission from the inner parts of the accretion disk. At the same time, the team detected radio emission with a sensitive radio telescope, the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in the USA. By studying how this radio emission changed with the X-rays, we could deduce that it came from fast-moving, narrowly-focused beams of material known as jets, seen here moving away from the neutron star magnetic poles. (Credit: ICRAR/University of Amsterdam)

An artist’s impression of the strong magnetic field neutron star in Swift J0243.6+6124 launching a jet. During the bright outburst event in which it was first discovered, the neutron star in Swift J0243.6+6124 was accreting at a very high rate, producing copious X-ray emission from the inner parts of the accretion disk. At the same time, the team detected radio emission with a sensitive radio telescope, the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in the USA. By studying how this radio emission changed with the X-rays, we could deduce that it came from fast-moving, narrowly-focused beams of material known as jets, seen here moving away from the neutron star magnetic poles. (Image: ICRAR / University of Amsterdam)

University of Amsterdam Ph.D. student Jakob van den Eijnden, who led the research, said neutron stars and black holes are sometimes found in orbit with a nearby “companion” star, adding:

Visualization of the outburst of the binary system Swift J0243.6+6124 from ICRAR on Vimeo.

Astronomers have known about jets for decades, but until now, they had only observed jets coming from neutron stars with much weaker magnetic fields. The prevailing belief was that a sufficiently strong magnetic field prevents material getting close enough to a neutron star to form jets. Van den Eijnden said:

An artist’s impression of the binary system Swift J0243.6+6124. A binary system with a neutron star in a 27-day orbit and a more massive, rapidly-rotating donor star. The rapid rotation of the donor star throws off a disk of material around the stellar equator. As the neutron star passes through the disk during its orbit, it picks up some of this outflowing gas, which then spirals in towards the neutron star in an accretion disk. (Credit: ICRAR/University of Amsterdam)

An artist’s impression of the binary system Swift J0243.6+6124. A binary system with a neutron star in a 27-day orbit and a more massive, rapidly-rotating donor star. The rapid rotation of the donor star throws off a disk of material around the stellar equator. As the neutron star passes through the disk during its orbit, it picks up some of this outflowing gas, which then spirals in toward the neutron star in an accretion disk. (Image: ICRAR / University of Amsterdam)

Astronomers around the world study jets to better understand what causes them and how much power they release into space. Associate Professor Miller-Jones said:

Narrated animation describing the findings and what they mean (English) from ICRAR on Vimeo.

Provided by: International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

Like this article? Subscribe to our weekly email for more!     

Dreaming of Golden Millet
Drier, Less Predictable Environment May Have Spurred Human Evolution
#article-ad-block-->