Could This Super-Distant Neutron Star Finally Unlock the Secrets of Supernovas?
Some of the wonders of the universe look like the Ant Nebula: giant, iridescent patterns splashed across the face of the void. Others, like the lonely neutron star discovered roughly 200,000 light years from Earth, are more subtle.
Sitting in the middle of the remnants of a supernova, the star is the first of its kind to be discovered outside the Milky Way galaxy and has some strange properties that astronomers are still trying to figure out.
Neutron stars in themselves are pretty incredible when you think about them.
Here's how NASA describes them:
"When the core of a massive star undergoes gravitational collapse at the end of its life, protons and electrons are literally scrunched together, leaving behind one of nature's most wondrous creations: a neutron star. Neutron stars cram roughly 1.3 to 2.5 solar masses into a city-sized sphere perhaps 20 kilometers (12 miles) across. Matter is packed so tightly that a sugar-cube-sized amount of material would weigh more than 1 billion tons, about the same as Mount Everest!"
This neutron star, discovered in the remains of a supernova dubbed 1E 0102.2-7219, is unique because it doesn't have a companion star (which are typical of neutron stars) and it doesn't have high magnetic field.
Though the supernova has been finished for a long time, the blast wave (composed of X-rays) is still expanding, followed by a small ring of gas.
At the heart of it all is the neutron star, which itself is emitting X-ray signals. Only 10 neutron stars like it have ever been observed, making it a cosmic oddity for astronomers.
Even stranger, however, is its position: the star isn't completely centered within the circles created by the gas and blast waves, causing scientists to wonder what knocked it away.
Hopefully, we'll learn more about this interstellar hermit, as well as its mysterious past.