. 5 April (UPI) – Using a combination of telescopes, astronomers have located the first isolated neutron star with a low magnetic field outside the Milky Way. Astronomers found the stellar corpse in the rubble of an ancient supernova explosion within the Small Magellanic Cloud.
Scientists used data collected with the MUSE instrument at the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory to create a massive gas ring within a system called 1E 0102.2 -7219. Inside the ring, the researchers identified an X-ray source.
Astronomers found that the X-ray source is located exactly in the middle of the ring, suggesting a connection between the source and the surrounding gas structure.
Follow-Up Observations An isolated neutron star with a weak magnetic field was detected with the Chandra X-ray Observatory.
Neutron stars are considered to be abundant, but are difficult to find because they emit only X-rays and are often surrounded by thick layers of gas dust. In this case, a gas ring showed the researchers exactly where to look.
"When you're looking for a point source, it does not get much better than having the universe literally circle around it to show you where to look," said ESO astronomer Frédéric Vogt in a press release.
When stars die and collapse on their own, shockwaves crash into space and gas and dust explode outward. These waves of gas and dust are known as supernova remnants and play an important role in the redistribution of stellar materials.
The massive structures carry fresh supplies of heavy elements in regions of star formation that fuel the next generation of stars.
Colorful images of the Small Magellanic Cloud and Supernova Remnant 1
Researchers described their discovery of the stellar corpse in the journal Nature Astronomy
"This is the first such object that can be confirmed beyond the Milky Way and has been given guidance by MUSE," said ESO researcher Liz Bartlett , "We believe that this could open new avenues for the discovery and exploration of these elusive stellar remains."