Research NewsAstrophysics

Photon Bubbles Put X-ray Fizz Into Neutron Stars

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Science  17 May 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5264, pp. 952
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5264.952


Since its launch last December, NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer satellite has found that the x-ray signals from some neutron stars oscillate as fast as 1100 times a second—faster than any existing picture of these x-ray sources can explain. These observations have opened the way to a new theory of what happens when superheated matter crashes onto the surface of the neutron star, sparking the x-ray emissions. The theory, tested in supercomputer simulations, attributes the high-frequency oscillations to bubbles of x-rays that form and burst in the infalling matter.