Star Caught Eating Another Star, X-Ray Flare Shows

First Proof of Star's Cannibalism

One theory was that the flares are caused by the neutron star devouring matter cast off by its hefty companion.

Most massive stars generate a constant "wind" of charged particles, which pushes large quantities of stellar material in all directions into space.

Instead of a steady outflow of gas, the blue supergiant in an SFXT system may be emitting winds studded with large "bullets" of material, according to the theory. Flares happen when the neutron star gets shot by one of these clumps.

However, existing observations couldn't offer clear proof for this theory—until now.

By chance, XMM-Newton caught such a flare in 2010 during a scheduled 12.5-hour observation of the SFXT system known as IGR J18410-0535.

"I really could not believe this was true that we were so lucky! I didn't sleep for days," Bozzo said. "We are finally able to provide direct evidence for the existence of these clumps of matter."

Bozzo and his team now hope to make observations of other SFXTs with XMM-Newton, to better understand the unusual flares.

"We think it's the right time," he said, "to ask for an unprecedented large observational time with the space observatory and provide a final clear answer to the nature of these sources."

منبع: National Geographic

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