RXTE lightcurve of an AXP
Credit: Gavriil, Kaspi & Wood, 2002, Nature, Vol 419, pg. 142

The Magnetic Connection

Astronomers have identified many strange things in the universe, so if an astronomer regards something as anomalous, it must really stand out. The class of objects known as Anomalous X-ray Pulsars (or AXPs) are just these types of objects. Anomalous X-ray Pulsars have gained their title since, unlike the "usual" types of pulsars, these objects can't be powered by accretion of matter from a companion, or by rotation. Astronomers have puzzled about the true nature of these objects for many years. A new observation by the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) might have finally provided a breakthrough in this "anomalous" case. This new observation shows that one well-studied AXP undergoes X-ray bursts, similar to the types of bursts seen in other compact objects known as Soft Gamma-Ray Repeaters. Soft Gamma Ray repeaters are thought to be "magnetars", compact neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields. Astronomers now suspect that AXPs may be the progenitors of Soft Gamma-Ray Repeaters.

Last Week * HEA Dictionary * Archive * Search HEAPOW * Education

Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!

Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified September 30, 2002