In a groundbreaking achievement, a cosmic ‘speed camera’ unveils the astonishing velocity of neutron star jets

In a groundbreaking achievement, a cosmic 'speed camera' unveils the astonishing velocity of neutron star jets

A recent study published in Nature has revealed that neutron stars can drive powerful jets into space at speeds of about one-third the speed of light. Jets are energetic cosmic beams that are launched when material falls towards dense central objects such as neutron stars or black holes. These jets carry away gravitational energy and play a critical role in the evolution of galaxies. While jets from black holes have been well studied, less is known about jets from neutron stars. Neutron stars, which are extremely dense stellar corpses, have a solid surface and a magnetic field, which affects how their jets are launched. One key clue to understanding jet launch is their speeds, but accurately measuring these speeds has been challenging. However, a team of researchers led by Thomas Russell conducted an experiment using X-ray wavelengths to measure the speeds of neutron star jets. They found that instead of disrupting the jets, thermonuclear explosions seemed to power them up. This surprising result suggests that X-ray pulses cause gas swirling around the neutron star to fall inward more quickly, providing more energy and material for the jets. The researchers were able to use the X-ray bursts to indicate the launch time of the jets and measure their speeds. This new technique opens up possibilities for further research on neutron star jets and understanding how these powerful cosmic jets are launched.

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