Updated 11:50 AM EDT, Tue, Sep 22, 2020

Magnetar Neutron Star Hits The Brakes, Showcasing an 'Anti-Glitch'

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Neutron stars, cosmic objects so dense they are only surpassed by black holes, have been known to suddenly increase their rotations in what astronomers dub a "glitch" due to superfluids within the star. In a rare reversal, scientists have a observed a special highly-magnetized neutron star - known as a magnetar - hitting the brakes

"I looked at the data and was shocked - the neutron star had suddenly slowed down," says lead author Rob Archibald from McGill University. "These stars are not supposed to behave this way."

While observing magnetar 1E 2259+586 slowing down using NASA's Swift X-Ray telescope, a team of astronomers led by McGill researchers also noticed a huge surge in X-Ray output from the star. The burst suggests that the "anti-glitch" was accompanied by a violent event close to the star's surface, possibly pockets of superfluid rotating at different speeds.

"We've seen huge X-ray explosions from magnetars before, but an anti-glitch was quite a surprise. " says Victoria Kaspi leader of the Swift magnetar monitoring program. "This is telling us something brand new about the insides of these amazing objects."

Scientists are concerned with the innards of a neutron star because of the incredible conditions present that cannot be recreated in a lab here on Earth. Densities within the star are thought to up to 10 times greater than our model of physics allows for in an atom's nucleus. The mass of around 500,000 Earths can be found in just over 14 miles of the average neutron star, and magnetar can shoot out X-Rays powerful enough to affect Earth from clear across the galaxy. In order to understand phenomena like these, the team is hoping that a breakthrough in physics will help shed light on some of these stars' darkest secrets.

You can read the full published study in the journal Nature.

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