Astronomers have identified the fastest ever spinning magnetar. Located about 21,000 light-years away from Earth is a magnetar called J1818.0-1607 and it is definitely unique and special.
First, let’s talk about magnetars. They are a unique type of neutron star – a very dense object that is made up of mostly tightly packed neutrons and is created from the collapsed core of a once-gigantic star that went supernova. The difference between a magnetar and a normal neutron star is that it has an exceptionally strong magnetic field (the strongest in the entire universe) and can explode without any warnings. Additionally, they are extremely hard to find as just 30 magnetars have been found prior to J1818.0-1607. This is a very low number considering that about 3,000 neutrons stars have been discovered thus far.
According to a statement, J1818.0-1607 was discovered back on March 12, 2020 by NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Telescope. Additional observations took place from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory by Harsha Blumer (an astronomer at West Virginia University) and Samar Safi-Harb (a physics professor at the University of Manitoba, Canada) and after detailed analysis of J1818.0-1607 they believe that it is in fact the fastest spinning magnetar ever found as it completes a full rotation in just 1.4 seconds. It may also be the youngest known magnetar as its age is estimated at being just 500 years old.
Another interesting observation regarding J1818.0-1607 was that it releases radio waves similar to space objects called “rotation powered pulsars” which are another type of neutron star that releases radiation or “pulses” of radio waves. Additionally, the magnetar is not turning its spinning energy into X-ray emissions as well as it should and the speed in which the conversion process is taking place is similar to those of rotation powered pulsars.
And those weren’t the only things that the experts found unusual about the magnetar as they noticed that based on its young age, there should be debris left over around it from the supernova but there isn’t anything close to it. Considering how far away the debris field is, the magnetar would had to have traveled at speeds so exceptionally fast that it has never been detected before in any type of neutron star.
In fact, if the magnetar is actually 500 years old and the distance of the debris field is what remains of the supernova, this would mean that J1818.0-1607 would had to have been traveling between 8 and 16 million miles per hour throughout the Milky Way Galaxy for its entire life thus far. Now that’s fast! Pictures and a video of the magnetar can be seen here.
Their research was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters where it can be read in full.