Thursday, 4 July 2013

Astrophysics Corner, Part 1 – Neutron Stars

In The Witches’ Stones Book 1 – Igniting the Blaze, a star known as the Firedragon plays a prominent role in Coryn and Steph’s escape from the Organization raider spaceships.   This star is actually a neutron star of the type known as a soft gamma repeater:

“The Firedragon was the most notorious star in the galaxy.  It had been given its name for a reason – it did, indeed, breathe fire, in the form of intense X-rays and gamma rays.  A neutron star of the type known as a soft gamma repeater, it poured out incredible amounts of energy in short, unpredictable bursts. In less than an hour, these flares had been known to produce more energy than Earth’s sun produced in decades. And those were routine bursts of the Firedragon – a super-flare was beyond imagining, capable of sterilizing an unlucky planet at the distance of tens of light years.”

In further neutron star news in the actual world, the research group at McGill University,  to which our astrophysics consultant, PhD student Scott Olausen,  belongs recently made an important discovery in the neutron star field - an "anti-glitch" where a neutron star slows down rather than speeds up.  Prior to this, an anti-glitch had never been reliably detected.  This gives hints about the interior of neutron stars and the makeup of matter, since a neutron star acts somewhat like a gigantic elementary particle (this is a hugely oversimplified explanation, of course). The paper was recently in Nature, one of the most prestigious journals in the science world.  Here are some links to the announcement:

Scott and the McGill Pulsar Group also have many fascinating papers in The Astrophysical Journal.

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