In a ground breaking discovery, astronomers from NASA and European Space Agency have discovered the cosmos' infant star. Named Swift J1818.0-1607 the neutron star is only 240 years old among its billions of years old cousins and ancestors.
According to NASA's press release, Swift J1818.0-1607 is a cosmic object known as magnetar and it was born from an exploded star. It is referred to as "infant magnetar" that belongs to the family of extreme objects called neutron stars. These celestial objects are strange because they are the smallest and densest in the universe with the exception of black holes. The radius of the star is not more than 10 kilometre and a mass of about 1.4 solar masses. They originate from the supernova explosion of a giant star.
The cosmos baby was discovered by NASA's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory on March 12 after releasing a massive burst of x-rays. Follow-ups were made using European Space Agency's XMM-Newton observatory and NASA's NuSTAR (short for Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) telescope, which is led by Caltech and managed by the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This unraveled more details of the stars with the help of which its physical characteristics and age could be determined.
"This object is showing us an earlier time in a magnetar's life than we've ever seen before, very shortly after its formation," said Nanda Rea, a researcher at the Institute of Space Sciences in Barcelona and principal investigator on the observation campaigns by XMM Newton and NuSTAR.
Among 3000 known neutron stars, scientists were able to confirm 31 magnetars and this one is believed to be the youngest one.
"Maybe if we understand the formation story of these objects, we'll understand why there is such a huge difference between the number of magnetars we've found and the total number of known neutron stars," Rea added.
This star is situated in the constellation Sagittarius and it is not too far from earth located at the distance of 16,000 light-years. Meanwhile, it has a magnetic field up to 1,000 times stronger than a typical neutron star measuring "twice the mass of our Sun into a volume more than one trillion times smaller."
"Spotting something so young, just after it formed in the Universe, is extremely exciting. People on Earth would have been able to see the supernova explosion that formed this baby magnetar around 240 years ago, right in the middle of the American and French revolutions," said the lead author Paolo Esposito of the University School for Advanced Studies IUSS Pavia, Italy in a statement.