A strongly magnetic neutron star in a nearly face-on binary system


THE first example of a new type of transient X-ray source recently appeared in the direction of the Galactic Centre1. During the peak of its outburst, the new source, GRO J1744 – 28, was very bright in X-rays2 and produced both 2.1-Hz periodic pulsations3 and intense bursts lasting tens of seconds1,4. Before the discovery of this source, it was thought that X-ray stars could not display these different types of activity simultaneously. Here we discuss the nature of the source, which seems to be a strongly magnetic neutron star accreting matter from a low-mass companion star in a low-inclination orbit. The dipole component of its magnetic field is 1011 G. When the source was at its brightest, its X-ray luminosity between bursts was close to the Eddington critical luminosity5, at which the outward force of the escaping radiation balances the inward force of gravity. The X-ray bursts probably occur when matter that has accumulated in the inner part of the accretion disk briefly overcomes the forces that oppose its inflow, and the gas falls onto the neutron star.

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Daumerie, P., Kalogera, V., Lamb, F. et al. A strongly magnetic neutron star in a nearly face-on binary system. Nature 382, 141–144 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1038/382141a0

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