Biggest explosions in the universe powered by strongest magnets

July 8, 2015
This artist's impression shows a supernova and associated gamma-ray burst driven by a rapidly spinning neutron star with a very strong magnetic field -- an exotic object known as a magnetar. Observations from ESO's La Silla and Paranal Observatories in Chile have for the first time demonstrated a link between a very long-lasting burst of gamma rays and an unusually bright supernova explosion. The results show that the supernova following the burst GRB 111209A was not driven by radioactive decay, as expected, but was instead powered by the decaying super-strong magnetic fields around a magnetar. Credit: ESO

Observations from ESO's La Silla and Paranal Observatories in Chile have for the first time demonstrated a link between a very long-lasting burst of gamma rays and an unusually bright supernova explosion. The results show that the supernova was not driven by radioactive decay, as expected, but was instead powered by the decaying super-strong magnetic fields around an exotic object called a magnetar. The results will appear in the journal Nature on July 9, 2015.

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are one of the outcomes associated with the biggest explosions to have taken place since the Big Bang. They are detected by orbiting telescopes that are sensitive to this type of high-energy radiation, which cannot penetrate the Earth's atmosphere, and then observed at longer wavelengths by other telescopes both in space and on the ground.

GRBs usually only last a few seconds, but in very rare cases the continue for hours. One such ultra-long duration GRB was picked up by the Swift satellite on 9 December 2011 and named GRB 111209A. It was both one of the longest and brightest GRBs ever observed.

As the afterglow from this burst faded it was studied using both the GROND instrument on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at La Silla and also with the X-shooter instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Paranal. The clear signature of a , later named SN 2011kl, was found. This is the first time that a supernova has been found to be associated with an ultra-long GRB.

The lead author of the new paper, Jochen Greiner from the Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik , Garching, Germany explains: "Since a long-duration gamma-ray burst is produced only once every 10 000-100 000 supernovae, the star that exploded must be somehow special. Astronomers had assumed that these GRBs came from very massive stars—about 50 times the mass of the Sun—and that they signalled the formation of a black hole. But now our new observations of the supernova SN 2011kl, found after the GRB 111209A, are changing this paradigm for ultra-long duration GRBs."

In the favoured scenario of a massive star collapse (sometimes known as a collapsar) the week-long burst of optical/infrared emission from the supernova is expected to come from the decay of radioactive nickel-56 formed in the explosion. But in the case of GRB 111209A the combined GROND and VLT observations showed unambiguously for the first time that this could not be the case. Other suggestions were also ruled out.

Magnetars are some of the most extreme objects we know in the universe. They are extremely compact objects with masses like the Sun, but with radii of only 10-20 km. At the same time, magnetars are extremely powerful magnetic fields -- the strongest magnetic fields we know in the universe. Credit: NASA

The only explanation that fitted the observations of the supernova following GRB 111209A was that it was being powered by a magnetar—a tiny neutron star spinning hundreds of times per second and possessing a magnetic field much stronger than normal neutron stars, which are also known as radio pulsars [6]. Magnetars are thought to be the most strongly magnetised objects in the known Universe. This is the first time that such an unambiguous connection between a supernova and a magnetar has been possible.

Paolo Mazzali, co-author of the study, reflects on the significance of the new findings: "The new results provide good evidence for an unexpected relation between GRBs, very bright supernovae and magnetars. Some of these connections were already suspected on theoretical grounds for some years, but linking everything together is an exciting new development."

Seen here is the blue dot light curve (the brightness as a function of the time after the explosion) for the supernova associated with the super-long gamma-ray burst (GRB111209A). Also shown for comparison are the light curves for a normal envelope stripped supernova that is approximately 15 times weaker, an earlier supernova associated with a gamma-ray burst that is more than three times weaker and a so-called super luminous supernova that is even more extreme. The dark blue curve shows the result of a model where the energy for the supernova associated with GRB111209A comes from a braking magnetar. Credit: (Johan Fynbo, NBI)

"The case of SN 2011kl/GRB 111209A forces us to consider an alternative to the collapsar scenario. This finding brings us much closer to a new and clearer picture of the workings of GRBs," concludes Jochen Greiner.

Explore further: Strange supernova is 'missing link' in gamma-ray burst connection

More information: "A very luminous magnetar-powered supernova associated with an ultra-long gamma-ray burst", by J. Greiner et al., to appear in the journal Nature on 9 July 2015. DOI: 10.1038/nature14579

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15 comments

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Whydening Gyre
4.2 / 5 (10) Jul 08, 2015
While gravity might not be responsible for people falling in love (A. Einstein) - magnetism might be...:-)
vidyunmaya
1 / 5 (8) Jul 08, 2015
Sub; Welcome trend-Magnetic Field into dominance
The Dynamic function must be understood through Plasma-regulated Electromagnetic phenomena in Magnetic Field Environment.
Beyond Heart and Center of the Universe for GRB-CMB inter-face.
Philosophy of Science : Plasmas, Electro-magnetic fields and Cosmology
and. Resource : Reflectors,3-Tier Consciousness, Source, Fields and Flows :Add Protection
These concepts lead to Prime Functional concepts to understand Cosmic function of he Universe.
vidyunmaya
1 / 5 (8) Jul 08, 2015
Additional inputs. https://www.scrib...-NANDURI
http://www.scribd...Dec-1999
http://www.scribd...del-2003
http://www.scribd...rse-2003
See reports sent to ESA groups and Books to set vision beyond heart of the Universe.
Welcome Interaction.
Vidyardhi nanduri [Independent Research-cosmology studies]
Uncle Ira
4.6 / 5 (10) Jul 08, 2015
@ vidy-Skippy. How you are? I'm good me.

How you beat the nazi-can'tdrive-Skippy to this one?

@ Everybody. How you are too? Just like I told ol vidy-Skippy, I am good too. Hooyeei, this is going to be a good one for the foolishment, eh?
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (11) Jul 08, 2015
Ahhh, the magnetar. Another abomination of science proffered by the pseudo-metaphysicists. There is a much simpler explanation, such as a "relaxation oscillator circuit, where electrical energy is stored for a time then released suddenly, in bursts."
http://www.holosc...niverse/

No such nonsense of a city block sized star rotating faster than a dentists drill need exist.
Uncle Ira
4.6 / 5 (11) Jul 08, 2015
P.S. for you vidy-Skippy.

Cher, that is some crazy stuffs on your linkums. It's almost as weird as Really-Skippy having the bad nightmare about nazi-can'tdrive-Skippy teaching the science and having Doctor-Zephir-Skippy trying to tell him about what all it means the next day..

Do peoples over there in India really talk like that? No wonder nobody is signing on, they don't know what the heck you are talking about. Well, maybe JVK could understand it, but not nobody else (except of course Really-Skippy and Zephir-Skippy.)
NiteSkyGerl
3.9 / 5 (11) Jul 08, 2015
Not all objects with a magnetic field are magnets. You can stop writing headlines for the kiddies because most schools no longer reference phys.org since you've pimped it out to the trolls.
mytwocts
5 / 5 (9) Jul 09, 2015
abomination ... proffered by the pseudo-metaphysicists.

A clear case of projection.
"Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others."
https://en.wikipe...ojection
docile
Jul 09, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
bschott
2 / 5 (4) Jul 09, 2015
Not all objects with a magnetic field are magnets
? This is interesting. Please, explain or provide an example.


Jupiter.

You can stop writing headlines for the kiddies because most schools no longer reference phys.org since you've pimped it out to the trolls.


The title of this article is juvenile, they could have said magnetic fields for the sake of accuracy.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (7) Jul 09, 2015
Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are one of the outcomes associated with the biggest explosions to have taken place since the Big Bang.

Technically correct - but then again, the Big Bang was *not* an explosion but an inflation event. I hate it when someone talks about the Big Bang as if something exploded.

most schools no longer reference phys.org

Why would schools reference phys.org? It's an aggregation site of journalistic articles about real papers - not a primary source. In any case: if students were to read the comment sections here they'd lose all faith in humanity (or invest all their money in mental health companies)
EnsignFlandry
5 / 5 (1) Jul 09, 2015
Sub; Welcome trend-Magnetic Field into dominance
The Dynamic function must be understood through Plasma-regulated Electromagnetic phenomena in Magnetic Field Environment.
Beyond Heart and Center of the Universe for GRB-CMB inter-face.
Philosophy of Science : Plasmas, Electro-magnetic fields and Cosmology
and. Resource : Reflectors,3-Tier Consciousness, Source, Fields and Flows :Add Protection
These concepts lead to Prime Functional concepts to understand Cosmic function of he Universe.


Right. I got that right away.
david_gold
1 / 5 (1) Jul 09, 2015
Could this be the result of a magnetar, starting out at an upper limit in mass, transmutes into a black hole due to the internal structure contracting (evidential in detected starquakes and glitches associated with magnetars)?

I proposed such a possible event in a paper in which it is phenomenologically linked to quantum gravity; the very powerful magnet field of magnetars inversely affects the strength of its gravitational field. Their magnetic fields decay over a relatively short period (10,000 years) precipitating in increasing gravitational field strength, and with it, increasing mass density of the magnetar therein potentially overcomes the Tolman-Oppenheimer-Volkoff limit for degeneracy pressure of neutrons that then results in a supernova.

See: http://www.scienc...cale.pdf
jsdarkdestruction
5 / 5 (3) Jul 11, 2015
Earth also has its own magnetar at its core, which provides us with the necessary shielding magnetic field against ionsed cosmic particles for some time.

Do you understand what a magnetar is ren?
1. You've repeatedly said that neutron stars have no evidence for their existence because they can't be seen in wavelengths visible to the human eye.
As said in the article a magnetar is a type of neutron star.
2. If the earth was a magnetar we wouldn't be here. No life at all would including the most hardy extremophiles.
jsdarkdestruction
5 / 5 (3) Jul 11, 2015
No, despite my correcting you earlier you seem to still greatly misunderstand what magnetars are. A magnetar is a type of neutron star.

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