UM astronomers take a closer look at powerful new ‘baby magnetar’ in Sagittarius

Astrophysicists Dr. Samar Safi-Harb of the University of Manitoba and Dr. Harsha Blumer have published their analysis of a “baby” cosmic object known as a magnetar. The object, named Swift J1818.0−1607 (J1818, for short), was discovered only this past March when it emitted powerful bursts of X-rays in our direction, detected by an instrument onboard NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory.

J1818 is believed to have been created by an exploding star that left behind a Winnipeg-sized star with the strongest magnetic field found in the universe. To investigate its nature further, Safi-Harb and Blumer requested a quick follow up with the Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA’s flagship mission for X-ray astronomy.

Safi-Harb says: “Chandra has superb imaging resolution in X-rays. Having Chandra’s eyes is like reading a newspaper from about a kilometre away!”

Safi-Harb explains: “J1818 is a newly discovered magnetar with a super strong magnetic field and may be the youngest of its kind known—only about 470 years old, which is a ‘baby’ compared with the age of other objects in the universe that can be millions of years old or older. The fact that J1818 is the youngest discovered allows astrophysicists to watch it ‘grow up,’ as most magnetars are already at an advanced age when they are first seen.”

Samar Safi Harb is one of three Canadian astronomers whose research teams are part of an international science working group that launched a satellite into space last week


If this age is true, our ancestors here on Earth would have witnessed the supernova explosion that created the magnetar, however its complex environment and distance may have hidden it from view.

Safi-Harb says: “It is also one of the fastest-spinning magnetars, with a period of only 1.36 seconds,” meaning that the entire Winnipeg-sized object is revolving completely around almost once every second.

Read full story