KEY POINTS

  • The ESA detected radiation emissions from a dead star in the Milky Way galaxy
  • The emissions were a combination of X-rays and radio waves
  • The discovery may help uncover the origins of Fast Radio Bursts

A satellite launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) detected a rare combination of radiation from the remains of a dead star in the Milky Way galaxy. Scientists said the discovery marked the first time that this kind of activity was detected from a dead star.

The discovery was made by the Integral high-energy space observatory, a satellite deployed by the ESA in 2002. Through its various onboard instruments, the Integral satellite is capable of taking images in space under gamma rays, X-rays and visible light.

On April 28, Integral detected a new type of burst coming from SGR 1935+2154, a magnetar located within the galaxy. Magnetars are remnants of dead stars that have intense magnetic fields.

According to the data collected by Integral, the magnetar emitted a combination of X-rays and radio waves. After detecting the rare cosmic emission, Integral immediately notified Earth-based observatories through its automated alert system.

“We detected the magnetar’s burst of high-energy, or ‘hard’, X-rays using Integral on 28 April,” Sandro Mereghetti of the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy said in a statement. “The ‘Burst Alert System’ on Integral automatically alerted observatories worldwide about the discovery in just seconds. This was hours before any other alerts were issued, enabling the scientific community to act fast and explore this source in more detail.”

The scientists who analyzed Integral’s discovery revealed that the strange combination of the radiation burst from SGR 1935+2154 resembled a Fast Radio Burst. First detected in 2007, Fast Radio Bursts are mysterious pulses of radio waves emitted from an unknown origin in space.

Integral’s discovery marked the first time that the scientists were able to study the strange radiation burst. They believe their data can be used to gather new information on Fast Radio Bursts to uncover their true nature.

“Most of the other satellites involved in the collaborative study of this event weren’t able to measure its position in the sky — and this was crucial in identifying that the emission did indeed come from SGR1935+2154,” Mereghetti explained.

“This is the first-ever observational connection between magnetars and Fast Radio Bursts,” he added. “It truly is a major discovery, and helps to bring the origin of these mysterious phenomena into focus.”