Letter

Nature 453, 626-628 (29 May 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06987; Received 16 January 2008; Accepted 1 April 2008

An infrared ring around the magnetar SGR 1900+14

S. Wachter1, E. Ramirez-Ruiz2, V. V. Dwarkadas3, C. Kouveliotou4, J. Granot5, S. K. Patel6 & D. Figer7

  1. Spitzer Science Center, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA
  2. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 201 Interdisciplinary Sciences Building, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA
  3. Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago, 5640 South Ellis Avenue, AAC 010c, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA
  4. NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center, VP62, NSSTC, 320 Sparkman Drive, Huntsville, Alabama 35805, USA
  5. Centre for Astrophysics Research, University of Hertfordshire, College Lane, Hatfield AL10 9AB, UK
  6. Optical Sciences Corporation, 6767 Old Madison Pike, Suite 650, Huntsville, Alabama 35806, USA
  7. Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, Rochester Institute of Technology, 54 Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester, New York 14623, USA

Correspondence to: S. Wachter1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to S.W. (Email: wachter@ipac.caltech.edu).

Magnetars1, 2 are a special class of slowly rotating (period approx5–12 s) neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields (>1014 G)—at least an order of magnitude larger than those of the 'normal' radio pulsars. The potential evolutionary links and differences between these two types of object are still unknown; recent studies, however, have provided circumstantial evidence connecting magnetars with very massive progenitor stars3, 4, 5. Here we report the discovery of an infrared elliptical ring or shell surrounding the magnetar SGR 1900+14. The appearance and energetics of the ring are difficult to interpret within the framework of the progenitor's stellar mass loss or the subsequent evolution of the supernova remnant. We suggest instead that a dust-free cavity was produced in the magnetar environment by the giant flare emitted by the source in August 1998. Considering the total energy released in the flare, the theoretical dust-destruction radius matches well with the observed dimensions of the ring. We conclude that SGR 1900+14 is unambiguously associated with a cluster of massive stars, thereby solidifying the link between magnetars and massive stars.

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