Dead star circled by light

MUSE data points to isolated neutron star beyond our galaxy.

Neutron Star
Neutron Star

New pictures from ESO‘s Very Large Telescope in Chile and different telescopes uncover a rich scene of stars and shining billows of gas in one of our nearest neighboring cosmic systems, the Small Magellanic Cloud. The photos have enabled space experts to recognize a subtle stellar carcass covered among fibers of gas deserted by a 2000-year-old supernova blast.

The MUSE instrument was utilized to set up where this tricky question is stowing away, and existing Chandra X-beam Observatory information affirmed its way of life as a disengaged neutron star.

An isolated neutron star in the Small Magellanic Cloud
This new picture created from images from telescopes on the ground and in space tells the story of the hunt for an elusive missing object hidden amid a complex tangle of gaseous filaments in one of our nearest neighbouring galaxies, the Small Magellanic Cloud. The reddish background image comes from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and reveals the wisps of gas forming the supernova remnant 1E 0102.2-7219 in green. The red ring with a dark centre is from the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope and the blue and purple images are from the NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory. The blue spot at the centre of the red ring is an isolated neutron star with a weak magnetic field, the first identified outside the Milky Way.

Spectacular new pictures, made from pictures from both ground and space-based telescopes [1], recount the tale of the chase for a slippery missing article covered up in the midst of a mind-boggling tangle of vaporous fibers in the Small Magellanic Cloud, around 200 000 light-years from Earth.

New information from the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile has uncovered a surprising ring of gas in a framework called 1E 0102.2-7219, extending gradually inside the profundities of various other quick moving fibers of gas and clean deserted after a supernova blast.

Hubble view of the surroundings of a hidden neutron star in the Small Magellanic Cloud
This picture from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope sets the scene for the story of the hunt for an elusive missing object hidden amid a complex tangle of gaseous filaments in one of our nearest neighbouring galaxies, the Small Magellanic Cloud. The wisps of gas forming the supernova remnant 1E 0102.2-7219 show up in blue near the centre of the picture. Part of the massive star-forming region, N 76, also known as Henize 1956, appears at the lower right in green and pink.

This disclosure permitted a group drove by Frédéric Vogt, an ESO Fellow in Chile, to find the main at any point detached neutron star with low attractive field situated past our own particular Milky Way world.

The group saw that the ring was fixated on an X-beam source that had been noted a long time previously and assigned p1. The idea of this source had remained a puzzle. Specifically, it was uncertain whether p1 really lies inside the remainder or behind it. It was just when the ring of gas — which incorporates both neon and oxygen — was seen with MUSE that the science group saw it superbly orbited p1.

The fortuitous event was excessively awesome, and they understood that p1 must exist in the supernova remainder itself. When p1’s area was known, the group utilized existing X-beam perceptions of this objective from the Chandra X-beam Observatory to discover that it must be a separated neutron star, with a low attractive field.

X-ray view of the surroundings of a hidden neutron star in the Small Magellanic Cloud
This archival image from the NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory shows how an elusive missing object was found amid a complex tangle of gaseous filaments in one of our nearest neighbouring galaxies, the Small Magellanic Cloud. The supernova remnant 1E 0102.2-7219 shows up dramatically, but when combined with MUSE data, the blue dot just below centre proves to be an isolated neutron star with a weak magnetic field, the first identified outside the Milky Way.

When massive stars explode as supernovae, they leave behind a curdled web of hot gas and dust, known as a supernova remnant. These turbulent structures are key to the redistribution of the heavier elements — which are cooked up by massive stars as they live and die — into the interstellar medium, where they eventually form new stars and planets.

Typically barely ten kilometers across, yet weighing more than our Sun, isolated neutron stars with low magnetic fields are thought to be abundant across the Universe, but they are very hard to find because they only shine at X-ray wavelengths [2]. The fact that the confirmation of p1 as an isolated neutron star was enabled by optical observations is thus particularly exciting.

In the words of Frédéric Vogt: “If you look for a point source, it doesn’t get much better than when the Universe quite literally draws a circle around it to show you where to look.”

Co-author Liz Bartlett, another ESO Fellow in Chile, sums up this discovery: “This is the first object of its kind to be confirmed beyond the Milky Way, made possible using MUSE as a guidance tool. We think that this could open up new channels of discovery and study for these elusive stellar remains.”

This research was presented in a paper entitled “Identification of the central compact object in the young supernova remnant 1E 0102.2-7219”, by Frédéric P. A. Vogt et al., in the journal Nature Astronomy.