An illuminated sphere appears to fly across space, its surface emanating wide rings while being followed by an orange-yellow tail of smooth gas. New studies have found that various types of neutron stars, formed from dying massive stars, exhibit similar behaviors. This may not seem like much, but from a bigger perspective, it furthers the idea that these incredibly dense, dead stars, which are denser than Mount Everest, could be the cause of enigmatic radiation bursts known as Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs).
FRBs – brief, intense radio emissions – appear to originate from sources beyond the Milky Way. Since their discovery in 2007, their origins have been shrouded in mystery, but one potential suspect is highly magnetic neutron stars, or magnetars. A group of researchers from the Max Planck Institute and the University of Manchester discovered these magnetars share a similar relationship between pulse structure and rotation, as found in other “radio-loud” neutron stars.
The discovery of a common “universal scaling” between different types of neutron stars suggests the involvement of plasma processes, hinting at how these radio emissions might stem from similar rotational periods. The team’s results revealed unexpected universal scaling for all radio-loud neutron stars, indicating that magnetars and other types of neutron stars share a common origin for their radio emissions.
Neutron stars are formed when massive stars exhaust their fuel for nuclear fusion, causing massive explosion or supernova while producing a dense core. These cores can be only 12 miles wide, yet incredibly dense. This gravitational collapse also makes the core spin faster, turning them into pulsars. Neutron stars can rotate at a stunning 700 times every second and emit radio waves, while others, called Rotating Radio Transients, emit less well-timed radio waves.
The study found that the pulse structures of magnetars are akin to other neutron stars, displaying a universal scaling relationship. This linkage between magnetars and other neutron stars implies that the origin of sub-pulse structure must be the same for all these neutron stars emitting radio waves. Consequently, researchers believe that the timescale of the burst can hint at the rotation period of the magnetar source of the FRBs.
This revelation about neutron stars and magnetars was published on Nov. 23 in the journal Nature Astronomy.