When massive stars reach the end of their fuel supply, remarkable cosmic events unfold. These colossal stars, driven by immense nuclear fusion reactions, typically undergo a brilliant and fiery supernova explosion. An enigmatic process follows where the star’s core can transform into either a black hole or an extraordinarily dense neutron star.
Scientists from New York University have introduced an intriguing concept associated with the core collapse of massive stars. They suggest that certain types of neutron stars, known as magnetars, with extraordinarily powerful magnetic fields, may generate potent forces capable of slicing through the star like a blade. This process would release intense bursts of radiation into space.
The New York University researchers shared their findings in a preprint paper, which has not yet undergone peer review. In their paper, they describe how they employed computer simulations to examine the inner workings of magnetars, neutron stars with magnetic fields significantly more robust than those of typical neutron stars and vastly superior to Earth’s magnetic field.
Their primary goal was to unravel the origins of gamma-ray bursts, high-energy events that emit gamma-ray radiation and have puzzled scientists for decades. Previous research has suggested that black holes and magnetars might serve as sources for these bursts.
The simulations conducted by the NYU team revealed that radiation, channeled by powerful magnetic fields within a newly formed magnetar, could penetrate the star’s dense interior, effectively cleaving it in two. They coined this intense release of energy a “relativistic blade.”
The relativistic blade projects a beam of radiation for a considerable distance. This phenomenon could explain why some gamma-ray bursts persist longer than others, which flare and extinguish rapidly.
The researchers plan to further investigate these peculiar relativistic blades, hoping to enhance our comprehension of some of the most extreme and exotic phenomena in the universe. Understanding these processes not only deepens our knowledge of astrophysics but also sheds light on the enigmatic and dynamic events occurring in the cosmos when massive stars meet their dramatic ends.