An artist’s depiction of a hiccup in the magnetic field of a magnetar, a highly magnetized neutron star. The hiccup – a reconnection between magnetic field lines – produces a short gamma ray burst (magenta) and a stream of particles (bright blob) that generates a second burst of gamma rays when it runs into the star’s bow shock. (Image courtesy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Smith, USRA/GESTAR)

Astronomers have been pondering gamma ray bursts (GRB) for 45 years. These bright, brief flashes of highly energetic radiation are so intense that they overwhelm detectors in our own galaxy, so Hurley and others have been looking to nearby galaxies. Now it appears they have found a telltale signature of a magnetar, tiny but highly magnetized stars left over from a supernova explosion, thought to be the source of some GRBs.

A short gamma ray burst detected last April 15 from a galaxy 11.4 million light years away shows a clear signature that Hurley thinks could help astronomers find magnetar bursts more easily and finally gather the data needed to check the many theories that explain these intriguing stars and their gamma ray flares.

Read the article at Berkeley News