Scientists watched as strong, hot winds were sent across the universe by a neutron star devouring its neighbor.
Scientists who observed the discovery say it could help us learn more about some of the most extreme things in the universe.
The hot winds emanated from the Low Mass X-ray Binary, or LMXB, a system that includes a neutron star or black hole. They get their fuel from shredding material from a nearby star, devouring it in a process known as accretion.
Usually, when that happens, systems get brighter, in ways that scientists can observe.
They also throw material into space and push it with the force of the wind. But so far, scientists have only seen “warm” gas – the new study is the first time they’ve seen “hot” and “cold” gas coming from a system of this type.
It was possible because scientists were waiting and preparing for such a volcanic eruption. The opportunity to witness the event using some of the most powerful telescopes available on Earth and space arose when the system called Swift J1858 was found and acted as a rare candidate.
“Eruptions like this are rare, and each is unique,” said Noel Castro Segura, of the University of Southampton, lead author of the study. “It’s usually heavily obscured by interstellar dust, which makes it really hard to observe.
“Swift J1858 was special, because although it is located on the other side of our galaxy, the ambiguity was small enough to allow a full-wavelength study.”
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