September 20, 2007—
A rare celestial body known as a magnetar shimmers in an explosion of x-rays in this artist's depiction.
The unusual object, about 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius, is a small, fast-spinning neutron star that periodically shoots out huge cataclysms of x-ray emissions.
A new study has found that an outburst of radiation detected from the star in 2003 came from a spot below the star's surface only 2 miles (3.5 kilometers) across.
The magnetar is only about 9 miles (15 kilometers) across in total but contains about as much mass as the sun.
The study, conducted with the European Space Agency's XXM-Newton orbiting telescope, also found that the star has one of the most powerful magnetic fields in the universe—600 trillion times that of Earth's.
More Photos in the News
Today's 15 Most Read Stories
Free Email Newsletter: Focus on Photography
Image by NASA/Swift/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet