News of the WeekAstrophysics

Z Mimics X-rays From Neutron Star

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Science  10 Dec 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5447, pp. 2059
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5447.2059

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When a neutron star or a black hole steals matter from a companion star, the matter forms a disk and heats up, giving off a blaze of x-rays. Astrophysicists try to infer the temperature and density of the accretion disk and the forces that shape it from the x-ray spectrum, but until recently they had nothing on Earth against which to check their results. Now they do, thanks to an earth-shaking experiment at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, called the Z-pinch--the world's most powerful x-ray source.