2 mysterious X-ray blasts in space baffle scientists, may reveal new stellar object

By @vitthernandez on
Ultraluminous X-ray Source
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory image of an extraordinary outburst by a black hole in the spiral galaxy M83, located about 15 million light years from Earth, is shown in this handout released July 13, 2012. Using Chandra, astronomers found a new ultraluminous X-ray source, or ULX. These objects give off more X-rays than most normal binary systems in which a companion star is in orbit around a neutron star or black hole. Reuters/NASA/CXC/Curtin University/R.Soria et al/Handout

Two X-ray sources that flare up and become 100 times brighter in less than one minute baffle because it is unlike anything they have seen before. The objects, which blast superbright and superfast X-ray flares, could represent a new type of astrophysical phenomenon.

But an hour after the flare, its brightness goes back to normal, according to Jimmy Irwin of the University of Alabama (UA). While flaring for a brief period, one of the sources became one of the brightest ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs) ever seen in an elliptical galaxy, says Peter Maksy, co-author of Irwin in the University of Alabama-led study, and from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

However, when the mysterious X-rays are not flaring, it appears to be normal neutron-stars or black-hole X-ray binaries wherein another star orbits a dead neutron star or a black hole, explain the author. The X-rays are found in old stellar populations unlike other known objects which have repetitive flares as bright as the mystery objects, Space.com reports.

Irwin, associate professor of physics and astronomy at UA, says these space energy anomalies that are more than 50 million light years away from our galaxy, create conditions which should destroy stars but are rather generating stars. His team of three undergraduate researchers-students found seven instances of massive energy flares in X-ray binary stars in two separate galaxies after they went through a decade of data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

However, the two stars the scientists detected, unlike gamma ray bursts or supernovas in other galaxies that collapse and are destroyed by large boosts in energy, flare to the point of exploding but simmer in one hour to baseline energy which it repeats every few days.

Their theory is it could be a black hole off a neutron star, but the researchers admit they still lack sufficient information, Sciencedaily reports.

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