Technology

NASA's NICER telescope detects brightest X-ray burst

NASA's NICER telescope detects brightest X-ray burst

NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) telescope on International Space Station (ISS) has detected the brightest X-ray burst so far that was caused by a massive thermonuclear flash on the surface of a pulsar. The crushed remains of a star that exploded long ago as a supernova is called pulsar.

NASA said in a press statement that the sudden spike of X-rays was detected at about 10:04 pm EDT on August 20. The burst came from an object called J1808, which is located about 11,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius. No single burst has revealed so many phenomena together, according to NASA.

“The explosion, which astronomers classify as a Type I X-ray burst, released as much energy in 20 seconds as the Sun does in nearly 10 days. The detail NICER captured on this record-setting eruption will help astronomers fine-tune their understanding of the physical processes driving the thermonuclear flare-ups of it and other bursting pulsars,” NASA said in the statement.

The fireball briefly brightened up by roughly  20 per cent after subsiding, something the scientists have not been able to understand. Peter Bult, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the University of Maryland, College Park believes the ejection of separate laters from the pulsar surface could have caused a two-step change in brightness.

The X-Ray brightness of J1808 leveled off for almost a second as the burst started. However, it started to increase again at a slower pace. According to NASA, the “stall” was the moment when the energy of the blast built up enough to blow the pulsar’s hydrogen layer into space.