Rapid spectral variability of a giant flare from a magnetar in NGC 253

Roberts, O. J. and Veres, P. and Baring, M. G. and Briggs, M. S. and Kouveliotou, C. and Bissaldi, E. and Younes, G. and Chastain, S. I. and DeLaunay, J. J. and Huppenkothen, D. and Tohuvavohu, A. and Bhat, P. N. and Göğüş, Ersin and Van der Horst, A. J. and Kennea, J. A. and Kocevski, D. and Linford, J. D. and Guiriec, S. and Hamburg, R. and Wilson-Hodge, C. A. and Burns, E. (2021) Rapid spectral variability of a giant flare from a magnetar in NGC 253. Nature, 589 (7841). pp. 207-210. ISSN 0028-0836 (Print) 1476-4687 (Online)

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Observations of a giant flare associated with the starburst galaxy NGC 253 suggest that the flare is probably associated with relativistic plasma in the magnetic field of a magnetar. Magnetars are neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields (10(13) to 10(15) gauss)(1,2), which episodically emit X-ray bursts approximately 100 milliseconds long and with energies of 10(40) to 10(41) erg. Occasionally, they also produce extremely bright and energetic giant flares, which begin with a short (roughly 0.2 seconds), intense flash, followed by fainter, longer-lasting emission that is modulated by the spin period of the magnetar(3,4) (typically 2 to 12 seconds). Over the past 40 years, only three such flares have been observed in our local group of galaxies(3-6), and in all cases the extreme intensity of the flares caused the detectors to saturate. It has been proposed that extragalactic giant flares are probably a subset(7-11) of short gamma-ray bursts, given that the sensitivity of current instrumentation prevents us from detecting the pulsating tail, whereas the initial bright flash is readily observable out to distances of around 10 to 20 million parsecs. Here we report X-ray and gamma-ray observations of the gamma-ray burst GRB 200415A, which has a rapid onset, very fast time variability, flat spectra and substantial sub-millisecond spectral evolution. These attributes match well with those expected for a giant flare from an extragalactic magnetar(12), given that GRB 200415A is directionally associated(13) with the galaxy NGC 253 (roughly 3.5 million parsecs away). The detection of three-megaelectronvolt photons provides evidence for the relativistic motion of the emitting plasma. Radiation from such rapidly moving gas around a rotating magnetar may have generated the rapid spectral evolution that we observe.
Item Type: Article
Divisions: Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences > Basic Sciences > Physics
Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences
Depositing User: Ersin Göğüş
Date Deposited: 19 Aug 2022 09:43
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2022 09:43
URI: https://research.sabanciuniv.edu/id/eprint/43278

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