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Hot Spots Merge on Magnetar Surface


Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning partners: Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Video imagery:

·        Magnetar animation: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
·        Plot of NICER data tracking X-ray emission from magnetar SGR 1830: NASA/NICER/G. Younes et al. 2022
·        Close up animation of hot spots merging on surface of magnetar: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

Writer: Leah Ramsay
Designer: Leah Hustak, Joseph Olmsted
Science review: Dr. Brandon Lawton
Education review: Jim Manning
Music from Music for Non-Profits

Colorful nebulas, gas giants, galaxies, and stars in outer space.
A large bright blue point glows among a field of stars. It dims, flashes brightly, dims, and flashes again.
Text, In a first, NASA's NICER mission observed the merging of super-hot areas on the surface of a magnetar.
A bright blue sphere spurts blue rays and gas from its mottled surface as it rotates. Spurts arc away then back to the sphere from the two poles.
Text, Magnetars are one type of dense core that remains after a star explodes in a supernova, with the strongest magnetic fields in the known universe.
An energy reading with three red ovals in the center that become yellow, then green, then blue further out. Two red ovals merge.
Text, NICER tracked three hot spots for over a month and observed two merge together.
On the blue sphere, three bright white spots flash and shift.
Text, Astronomers think the hot spots travel as a result of processes similar to earthquakes.
A magnetar's surface crust is immensely strong, but its intense magnetic field can strain the crust beyond its limits.
The two white spots on the right slowly move together and merge.
Text, Magnetars are a challenge to understand due to their extreme conditions. NICER has provided scientists valuable new insight for ongoing work.
This news was brought to you in part by NASA'S GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER IN GREENBELT, M.D.