UAE-based university's researchers capture rare event 'thousands of times brighter than sun'
Abu Dhabi - It was an event that the researchers have been waiting for - for years.
Can you even imagine looking at something brighter than the sun? Researchers in Abu Dhabi have seen one - and it's 'thousands of times brighter' than sunlight.
A team of experts from New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and Monash University in Australia have recently observed the full process of material spiralling into a distant neutron star, which triggered a massive ?X-ray outburst thousands of times brighter than the sun.
It was an event that the researchers have been waiting for - for years. And finally, they captured it and recorded the incredible sighting in a study they presented at the American Astronomical Society meeting.
The research was led by PhD candidate Adelle Goodwin from the Monash School of Physics and Astronomy, in collaboration with associate professor at Monash University Duncan Galloway and assistant professor of physics at NYUAD David Russell, among other international researchers.
"We have been trying to identify an optical 'precursor' like this for several years," Russell said.
"This work enables us to shed some light on the physics of accreting neutron star systems, and to understand how these explosive outbursts are triggered in the first place, which has puzzled astronomers for a long time."
Using high-powered telescopes, the researchers caught one of the accreting neutron star systems in the act of entering outburst - from the first sign of optical activity, to the X-ray emission, all the way to the end of the outburst.
In an 'accreting' neutron star system, a pulsar strips material away from a nearby star, forming a disk of material spiralling in towards the pulsar, where it releases extraordinary energy - about the total energy output of the sun in 10 years, over a few short weeks.