An artist’s view of magnetars, which are neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields. Photo by Sophia Dagnello / NRAO / AUI / NSF
The researchers hope that accurate measurement would help unravel the mystery of rapid radio bursts. One magnetar has been found to have emitted a signal that at least resembled a rapid radio burst.
The object of the VLBA radio telescope was a magnetar transmitting radio pulses, known by the letter code XTE J1810-197.
The radio telescope made magnetic observations when the earth was on opposite sides of its orbit. Comparing them, it was observed that the apparent position of the magnetar changed with respect to more distant objects.
This phenomenon, known as parallax, allowed geometry to be used to calculate the distance of a magnet. It turned out that it is about 8,100 light-years away from us.
“This is the first parallax measurement from a magnetar,” said Hao Ding of the Australian University of Technology. “It shows the object to be one of the closest magnets to us.”
The measurement may be helpful in understanding rapid radio bursts that are coming from outside our galaxy and have not yet been explained.
Earlier this year, another magnet of our own galaxy was found to be transmitting a signal reminiscent of a rapid radio burst. Because of this, scientists suspect magnets may be behind these energetic discharges.
The XTE J1810-197 follows this picture. If it also happened to transmit a signal like a fast radio burst, accurate knowledge of the distance from the magnetar would help calculate the pulse intensity.
“The intensity of rapid radio bursts varies, so we want to know how the pulse of a magnetar relates to them,” says Adam Deller of Swinburne University.
In order to get the answer, parallax measurements must be made on other magnets of the Milky Way.
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