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Did a Neutron Star Explosion from across the Milky Way Galaxy cause the Asian Tsunami?

Did a Neutron Star Explosion from across the Milky Way Galaxy cause the Asian Tsunami? Host Clyde Lewis interviews futurist Alfred Lambremont Webre, JD, MEd
Did a Neutron Star Explosion from across the Milky Way Galaxy cause the Asian Tsunami?

Host Clyde Lewis interviews futurist Alfred Lambremont Webre, JD, MEd

Date: Sunday, March 13, 2005/ 10PM - 1 AM PT
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EXOPOLITICS: POLITICS, GOVERNMENT AND LAW IN THE UNIVERSE (Universebooks 2005) by Alfred Lambremont Webre, J.D., M.Ed


Exopolitics is the evolution of Alfred Lambremont Webre's groundbreaking work as a futurist at the Stanford Research Institute, where in 1977 he directed a proposed extraterrestrial communication study project for the Carter White House. It may turn the dominant view of our Universe upside down. It reveals that we live on an isolated planet in the midst of a populated, evolving, and highly organized inter-planetary, inter-galactic, and multi-dimensional Universe society. It explores why Earth seems to have been quarantined for eons from a more evolved Universe society. It suggests specific steps to end our isolation, by reaching out to the technologically and spiritually advanced civilizations that are engaging our world at this unique time in human history.


Did a Neutron Star Explosion from across the Milky Way Galaxy cause the Asian Tsunami?
Nine (9) Alternative Frames of Analysis

NEWS ARTICLES: Neutron Star Explosion Detected December 27, 2004

Brightest Explosion Ever Recorded
NASA -- Scientists have detected a flash of light from across the Galaxy so powerful that it bounced off the Moon and lit up the Earth's upper atmosphere. The flash was brighter than anything ever detected from beyond our Solar System and lasted over a tenth of a second.
NASA and European satellites and many radio telescopes detected the flash and its aftermath on December 27, 2004. Two science teams report about this event at a special press event today at NASA headquarters. A multitude of papers are planned for publication.
The scientists said the light came from a "giant flare" on the surface of an exotic neutron star, called a magnetar. The apparent magnitude was brighter than a full moon and all historical star explosions. The light was brightest in the gamma-ray energy range, far more energetic than visible light or X-rays and invisible to our eyes.

Such a close and powerful eruption raises the question of whether an even larger influx of gamma rays, disturbing the atmosphere, was responsible for one of the mass extinctions known to have occurred on Earth hundreds of millions of years ago. Also, if giant flares can be this powerful, then some gamma-ray bursts (thought to be very distant black-hole-forming star explosions) could actually be from neutron star eruptions in nearby galaxies.
NASA's newly launched Swift satellite and the NSF-funded Very Large Array (VLA) were two of many observatories that observed the event, arising from neutron star SGR 1806-20, about 50,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius.

"This might be a once-in-a-lifetime event for astronomers, as well as for the neutron star," said Dr. David Palmer of Los Alamos National Laboratory, lead author on a paper describing the Swift observation. "We know of only two other giant flares in the past 35 years, and this December event was one hundred times more powerful."
Dr. Bryan Gaensler of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., is lead author on a report describing the VLA observation, which tracked the ejected material as it flew out into interstellar space. Other key scientific teams are associated with radio telescopes in Australia, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, India and the United States, as well as with NASA's High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI).

A neutron star is the core remains of a star once several times more massive than our Sun. When such stars deplete their nuclear fuel, they explode -- an event called a supernova. The remaining core is dense, fast-spinning, highly magnetic, and only about 15 miles in diameter. Millions of neutron stars fill our Milky Way galaxy.
Scientists have discovered about a dozen ultrahigh-magnetic neutron stars, called magnetars. The magnetic field around a magnetar is about 1,000 trillion gauss, strong enough to strip information from a credit card at a distance halfway to the moon. (Ordinary neutron stars measure a mere trillion gauss; the Earth's magnetic field is about 0.5 gauss.)

Four of these magnetars are also called soft gamma repeaters, or SGRs, because they flare up randomly and release gamma rays. Such episodes release about 10^30 to 10^35 watts for about a second, or up to millions of times more energy than our Sun. For a tenth of a second, the giant flare on SGR 1806-20 unleashed energy at a rate of about 10^40 watts. The total energy produced was more than the Sun emits in 150,000 years.
"The next biggest flare ever seen from any soft gamma repeater was peanuts compared to this incredible December 27 event," said Gaensler. "Had this happened within 10 light years of us, it would have severely damaged our atmosphere. Fortunately, all the magnetars we know of are much farther away than this."

A scientific debate raged in the 1980s over whether gamma-ray bursts were star explosions from beyond our Galaxy or eruptions on nearby neutron stars. By the late 1990s it became clear that gamma-ray bursts did indeed originate very far away and that SGRs were a different phenomenon. But the extraordinary giant flare on SGR 1806-20 reopens the debate, according to Dr. Chryssa Kouveliotou of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, who took part in both the Swift and VLA analysis.
A sizeable percentage of "short" gamma-ray bursts, less than two seconds, could be SGR flares, she said. These would come from galaxies within about a 100 million light years from Earth. (Long gamma-ray bursts appear to be black-hole-forming star explosions billions of light years away.)

"An answer to the 'short' gamma-ray burst mystery could come any day now that Swift is in orbit", said Swift lead scientist Neil Gehrels. "Swift saw this event after only about a month on the job."
Scientists around the world have been following the December 27 event. RHESSI detected gamma rays and X-rays from the flare. Drs. Kevin Hurley and Steven Boggs of the University of California, Berkeley, are leading the effort to analyze these data. Dr. Robert Duncan of the University of Texas at Austin and Dr. Christopher Thompson at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (University of Toronto) are the leading experts on magnetars, and they are investigating the "short duration" gamma-ray burst relationship.

Brian Cameron, a graduate student at Caltech under the tutorage of Prof. Shri Kulkarni, leads a second scientific paper based on VLA data. Amateur astronomers detected the disturbance in the Earth's ionosphere and relayed this information through the American Association of Variable Star Observers.
Videos and Animations
1) Artist conception of the December 27, 2004 gamma ray flare expanding from SGR 1806-20 and impacting Earth's atmosphere. Click here to watch video.
2) An artist conception of the SGR 1806-20 magnetar including magnetic field lines. After the initial flash, smaller pulsations in the data suggest hot spots on the rotating magnetar's surface. The data also shows no change in the magentar's rotation after the initial flash. Click here to watch video.
3) Radio data shows a very active area around SGR1806-20. The Very Large Array radio telescope observed ejected material from this Magnetar as it flew out into interstellar space. These observations in the radio wavelength start about 7 days after the flare and continue for 20 days. They show SGR1806-20 dimming in the radio spectrum. Click here to watch video.
4) SGR-1806 is an ultra-magnetic neutron star, called a magnetar, located about 50,000 light years away from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius. Click here to watch video.
5) Swift is a first-of-its-kind multi-wavelength observatory dedicated to the study of gamma ray burst (GRB) science. Its three instruments will work together to observe GRBs and afterglows in the gamma ray, X-ray, ultraviolet, and optical wavebands. Swift is designed to solve the 35-year-old mystery of the origin of gamma-ray bursts. Scientists believe GRB are the birth cries of black holes. Click here to watch video.
6) NASA's Swift satellite was successfully launched Saturday, November 20, 2004 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Click here to watch video.

Other observatories and scientific representatives include:

Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope, Netherlands -- Prof. Ralph Wijers

Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST), Australia -- Prof. Dick Hunstead

Australia Telescope Compact Array -- Prof. Bryan Gaensler

Parkes radio telescope, Australia -- Dr. Maura McLaughlin

Greenbank Radio Telescope, West Virginia -- Dr. Maura McLaughlin

Very Long Baseline Array, USA -- Dr. Mike Garrett

Multi-Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network (MERLIN), UK -- Dr. Rob Fender

Additional information about magentars and soft gamma ray repeaters can be found at Dr. Robert Duncan's web site located at the University of Texas at Austin:  http://solomon.as.utexas.edu/~duncan/magnetar.html
Story from REDNOVA NEWS:

Published: 2005/02/18 13:55:00 CST

Rednova 2004
Published online: 18 February 2005; | doi:10.1038/news050214-18
Huge explosion traced to exotic star
Jim Giles
Astronomers pinpoint source of unprecedented radiation surge.
The rotating, highly-magnetised neutron star undergoing a 'quake' at its surface. Click here to see animation.
A cataclysmic 'starquake' is thought to have caused a flare of radiation that ripped past the Earth on 27 December, battering instruments on satellites and lighting up our atmosphere.
Scientists say this is the biggest blast of gamma and X-rays they have ever observed in our corner of the Universe. They believe the flare came from a bizarre object just 20 kilometres wide on the other side of the Galaxy.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime event," says Rob Fender of Southampton University, UK, one of the researchers studying data on the flare. "The object released more energy in a tenth of a second than the Sun emits in 100,000 years."
Data from satellites and ground-based telescopes have pinpointed the origin of the burst as SGR 1806-20, a 'magnetar' around 50,000 light-years away in the constellation of Sagittarius. Magnetars are extremely dense, small stars with magnetic fields at least a thousand trillion times stronger than the Earth's. They are a type of neutron star, the compact remnant of a collapsed sun.
Astronomically speaking, this was in our backyard.
Bryan Gaensler, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
The flare may have been caused by a quake on the surface of SGR 1806-20, suggest researchers. The quake would have disturbed the star's magnetic field, creating an explosion that was the brightest ever detected beyond our Solar System.
It is possible that similar flares have been misinterpreted in the past. Analogous gamma ray bursts have been detected, but they were assumed to come from very distant objects beyond our galaxy.
A satellite launched last November is ideally positioned to resolve the issue. NASA's Swift Gamma Ray Burst Mission is designed to locate and measure bursts. "Answers to these questions could come any day now that Swift is in orbit," says Neil Gehrels of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
Safe distance
Fortunately for life on Earth, the nearest known magnetar is about 13,000 light years away - too far for any future burst to damage the planet. The radiation burst from a closer explosion could, for example, wipe out the ozone layer.
"Astronomically speaking, this was in our backyard," says Bryan Gaensler of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and an author of a paper about the burst that has been accepted for publication in Nature. "If it were in our living room, we'd be in big trouble."

Blast Affected Earth From Halfway Across The Milky Way
Artist's impression of the rotating, highly-magnetised neutron star which is SGR 1806-20, undergoing a 'quake' at its surface, resulting in the gamma-ray outburst. See more images.
Cambridge MA (SPX) Feb 21, 2005
Forget "Independence Day" or "War of the Worlds." A monstrous cosmic explosion last December showed that the earth is in more danger from real-life space threats than from hypothetical alien invasions.
The gamma-ray flare, which briefly outshone the full moon, occurred within the Milky Way galaxy. Even at a distance of 50,000 light-years, the flare disrupted the earth's ionosphere. If such a blast happened within 10 light-years of the earth, it would destroy the much of the ozone layer, causing extinctions due to increased radiation.
"Astronomically speaking, this explosion happened in our backyard. If it were in our living room, we'd be in big trouble!" Said Bryan Gaensler (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), lead author on a paper describing radio observations of the event.
Gaensler headed one of two teams reporting on this eruption at a special press event today at NASA headquarters. A multitude of papers are planned for publication.
The giant flare detected on December 27, 2004, came from an isolated, exotic neutron star within the Milky Way. The flare was more powerful than any blast previously seen in our galaxy.
"This might be a once-in-a-lifetime event for astronomers, as well as for a neutron star," said David Palmer of Los Alamos National Laboratory, lead author on a paper describing space-based observations of the burst.
"We know of only two other giant flares in the past 35 years, and this December event was one hundred times more powerful."
NASA's newly launched Swift satellite and the NSF-funded Very Large Array (VLA) were two of many observatories that observed the event, arising from neutron star SGR 1806-20, about 50,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius.
Neutron stars form from collapsed stars. They are dense, fast-spinning, highly magnetic, and only about 15 miles in diameter. SGR 1806-20 is a unique neutron star called a magnetar, with an ultra-strong magnetic field capable of stripping information from a credit card at a distance halfway to the Moon. Only about 10 magnetars are known among the many neutrons stars in the Milky Way.
"Fortunately, there are no magnetars anywhere near the earth. An explosion like this within a few trillion miles could really ruin our day," said graduate student Yosi Gelfand (CfA), a co-author on one of the papers.
The magnetar's powerful magnetic field generated the gamma-ray flare in a violent process known as magnetic reconnection, which releases huge amounts of energy. The same process on a much smaller scale creates solar flares.
"This eruption was a super-super-super solar flare in terms of energy released," said Gaensler.
Using the VLA and three other radio telescopes, Gaensler and his team detected material ejected by the blast at a velocity three-tenths the speed of light. The extreme speed, combined with the close-up view, yielded changes in a matter of days.
Spotting such a nearby gamma-ray flare offered scientists an incredible advantage, allowing them to study it in more detail than ever before. "We can see the structure of the flare's aftermath, and we can watch it change from day to day. That combination is completely unprecedented," said Gaensler.
Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.

Distant explosion breaks brightness records
19:00 18 February 2005
NewScientist.com news service
Maggie McKee
Several dozen satellites around Earth, and one orbiting Mars, detected a flash of high-energy photons - known as gamma rays - on 27 December 2004. The 0.25-second flash was so bright it overwhelmed the detectors on many satellites - making an energy measurement impossible - and disrupted some radio communication on Earth.
"It was so bright, it came right through the body of the Swift satellite, even though Swift wasn't pointed at the object," says John Nousek, mission director for NASA's Swift spacecraft - launched especially to detect gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) - at Pennsylvania State University, US.
The brief flash was followed by a fainter afterglow of gamma rays lasting for about 500 seconds, which showed a recurring signal every 7.5 seconds. That signal led scientists using Europe's INTEGRAL spacecraft to trace the source of the "superflare" to a dead star - called a neutron star - known to spin at that rate. Measurements of the distance to the star - called SGR 1806-20, range from 30,000 to 50,000 light years from Earth.
That relatively small distance, coupled with an accurate energy measurement by NASA's RHESSI satellite, means the explosion was not as powerful - at source - as more distant bursts linked with black holes. Nevertheless, it "may have sterilised any planets within a few light years of it", says Rob Fender, an astronomer at Southampton University, UK, who is studying the lingering radio emission from the flare. "This may be a once-in-a-lifetime event both for astronomers and for the neutron star itself."
Clean credit card
But Christopher Thompson, an astrophysicist at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Physics, says that may not be so. The neutron star in question is rare magnetar, with a magnetic field so strong it could wipe a credit card clean from a distance of 160,000 kilometres. And this magnetar is even rarer yet, one of three "soft gamma repeaters" (SGRs) in the Milky Way.
SGRs tend to release low-energy flares of gamma rays sporadically, but more energetic bursts have been observed twice before - in 1998 and 1979. But the energy in the initial 0.25-second burst from the most recent flare was 100 times that of the two previous superflares.
But Thompson, who worked on the most accepted magnetar model, says: "I wasn't shocked at the energy it was putting out. The total energy implied by the models is enough to power a dozen or more of these events in the life of one magnetar."
Superflares may occur when tightly wrapped magnetic fields inside the magnetar start to "untwist". This briefly rips loose some magnetic fields outside the star, releasing a "fireball" of particles, and light that astronomers see as a bright flash of gamma rays.
Extreme distances
If this flare had been even farther away - up to 100 million light years or so - it would have looked "indistinguishable" from a short GRB - a cosmic phenomenon that has baffled astronomers for years. Short GRBs are blasts of high-energy gamma rays that last less than two seconds. Astronomers are unsure of their cause but think they have a different origin than "long" GRBs - lasting for several seconds or minutes - which are thought to be created during the birth of black holes.
This latest observation leads David Palmer, a Swift team member at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, US, to say: "I'm fairly confident that soft gamma repeaters account for at least some short gamma-ray bursts."
Neil Gehrels, principal investigator for Swift at NASA, says Swift should be able to help settle the debate about short GRBs. Swift will study both SGRs and short GRBs, having the capability to quickly respond to short GRBs in order to locate them in space.
But he laments: "It's very unlikely we're going to see another one of these supergiant flares."
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Monster star burst was brighter than full Moon: astronomers
Fri Feb 18, 2005 2:40 pm
PARIS (AFP) - Stunned astronomers described the greatest cosmic explosion ever monitored -- a star burst from the other side of the galaxy that was briefly brighter than the full Moon and swamped satellites and telescopes.

The high-radiation flash, detected last December 27, caused no harm to Earth but would have literally fried the planet had it occurred within a few light years of home.

Normally reserved skywatchers struggled for superlatives.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime event," said Rob Fender of Britain's Southampton University.

"We have observed an object only 20 kilometers (12 miles) across, on the other side of our galaxy, releasing more energy in a 10th of a second than the Sun emits in 100,000 years."

"It was the mother of all magnetic flares -- a true monster," said Kevin Hurley, a research physicist at the University of California at Berkeley.

Bryan Gaensler of the United States' Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, described the burst as "maybe a once per century or once per millennium event in our galaxy.

"Astronomically speaking, this explosion happened in our backyard. If it were in our living room, we'd be in big trouble."

The blast was caused by an eruption on the surface of a known, exotic kind of neutron star called SGR 1806-20, located about 50,000 light years from Earth in the constellation of Sagittarius and about three billion times farther from us than the Sun.

A neutron star is the remnant of a very large star near the end of its life -- a tiny, extraordinarily dense core with a powerful magnetic field, spinning swiftly on its axis.

When these ancient star cores finally run out of fuel, they collapse in on themselves and explode as a supernova.

There are millions of neutron stars in the Milky Way but, so far, only a dozen have been found to be "magnetars": neutron stars with an ultra-powerful magnetic field.

Magnetars have have a magnetic field measuring about 1,000 trillion gauss, hundreds of times more powerful than that of any other object in the Universe.

To give an idea of this in earthly terms, the field is so powerful that it could strip the data off a credit card at a distance of 200,000 kilometers (120,000 miles).

SGR 1806-20 is an even rarer bird. It is one of only four known "soft gamma repeater" (SGR) magnetars, so called because they flare up randomly and release gamma rays in a mammoth burst.

Why this happens is unknown. One theory is that the energy release comes from magnetic fields which wrestle and overlap because of the star's spin and then snap back and reconnect, creating a "starquake" rather like the competing faults that cause an earthquake.

What is sure, though, is that the outpouring of energy is massive.

The SGR 1806-20 spewed out about 10,000 trillion trillion watts, or about 100 times brighter than any of the several "giant flares" that have been previously recorded.

Despite this energy loss, the strange star did not even pause, Britain's Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) said.

"SGR 1806-20 spins once in only 7.5 seconds. Amazingly, the December 27 event did not cause any slowing of its spin rate, as would be expected," the RAS said.

The flare, detected by satellites and telescopes operated by NASA (news - web sites) and Europe, was so powerful that it bounced off the Moon and lit up the Earth's upper atmosphere. For over a tenth of the second, it was actually brighter than a full Moon, and briefly overwhelmed delicate sensors, RAS said.

Two science teams, formed by observations provided by 20 institutes around the world, will report on the blast in a forthcoming issue of the British weekly journal Nature.

Many questions will be thrown up by the event, including the intriguing speculation that the dinosaurs may have been wiped out by a similar, closer gamma-ray explosion 65 million years ago, and not by climate change inflicted by an asteroid impact.

"Had this happened within 10 light years of us, it would have severly damaged our atmosphere and possibly have triggered a mass extinction," said lead-author Gaensler.

The good news, he noted, is that the nearest known magnetar to Earth, 1E 2259+586, is about 13,000 light years away.
18 February 2005
Magnetar flare blitzed Earth Dec. 27, could solve cosmic mysteries
This information is co-released with The University of California, Berkeley, and co-incides with a NASA Space Science Update (right).
Austin, Texas Astronomers around the world recorded late last year a powerful explosion of high-energy X-rays and gamma rays a split-second flash from the other side of our galaxy that was strong enough to affect the Earth's atmosphere. The flash, called a soft gamma repeater flare, reached Earth on Dec. 27 and was detected by at least 15 satellites and spacecraft between Earth and Saturn, swamping most of their detectors.
Thought to be a mighty cataclysm in a super-dense, highly magnetized star called a magnetar, it emitted as much energy in two-tenths of a second as the sun gives off in 250,000 years. Robert C. Duncan of the University of Texas at Austin originally proposed and developed the magnetar theory, along with Christopher Thompson of the Canadian Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics.
"This is a key event for understanding magnetars," Duncan said. Its intrinsic power was a thousand times greater than the power of all other stars in the galaxy put together, and at least 100 times the power of any previous magnetar outburst in our galaxy. It was ten thousand times brighter than the brightest supernova.
Duncan and Thompson worked with Kevin Hurley, a research physicist at UC Berkeley who leads a major international team studying the event, to understand the immense power of the Dec. 27 flare. "It was the mother of all magnetic flares - a true monster," Hurley said.
The team's observations and analysis are summarized in a paper that has been submitted for publication in the journal Nature.
"Soft gamma repeater" bursts pinpoint flashes of highly energetic X-rays and low-energy (soft) gamma rays coming repeatedly from one place in the sky were first noticed in 1979 and remained a mystery until Duncan and Thompson proposed in 1992 that they originate from magnetically powered neutron stars, or magnetars. Formed by the collapsing core of a star throwing off its outer layers in a supernova explosion, neutron stars are extremely dense, with more mass than in the Sun packed into a ball about 10 miles across. Many neutron stars spin rapidly. These spinning neutron stars, some rotating a thousand times a second, signal their presence by the emission of pulsed radio waves, and are called pulsars.
According to Duncan, magnetars are a special kind of neutron star. They are born rotating very quickly, which causes their magnetic fields to get amplified. But after a few thousand years, their intense magnetic field slows their spin to a more moderate period of one rotation every few seconds. The magnetic fields both inside and outside the star twist, however, and according to the theory these intense fields can stress and move the crust much like shearing along the San Andreas Fault. These magnetic fields are a quadrillion a million billion times stronger than the field that deflects compass needles at the Earth's surface.
The shear moves the crust around and the magnetic fields are tied to the crust, generating twists in the magnetic field that can sometimes break and reconnect in a process that sends trapped positrons and electrons flying out from the star, annihilating each other in a gigantic explosion of hard gamma rays.
The flare observed Dec. 27 originated about 50,000 light years away in the constellation Sagittarius, which means that the magnetar sits directly opposite the center of our galaxy from the Earth in the disk of the Milky Way Galaxy.
As the radiation stormed through our solar system, it blitzed at least 15 spacecraft, knocking their instruments off-scale whether or not they were pointing in the magnetar's direction. One Russian satellite, Coronas-F, detected gamma rays that had bounced off the Moon.
The flare also ripped atoms apart, ionizing them, in much of the Earth's ionosphere for five minutes, to a deeper level than even the biggest solar flares do, an effect noticed via its effect on long-wavelength radio communications. Such events are unlikely to pose a danger to the Earth because the chances that one would be close enough to the Earth to cause serious disruption are exceedingly small.
Hurley and his team combined information from many spacecraft, including neutron and gamma-ray detectors aboard Mars Odyssey and many near-Earth satellites, in order to localize it to a spot well-known to astronomers: a magnetar known as SGR 1806-20. This position was accurately confirmed by radio astronomers at the Very Large Array in Socorro, N.M., who studied the fading radio afterglow of the event and obtained important information about the explosion.
The tremendous power of the event has suggested a novel solution to a long-standing mystery the origins of a strange phenomenon known as "Short-Duration Gamma Ray Bursts." Hundreds of brief, mysterious flashes of high-energy radiation from deepest space, lasting less than two seconds, have been measured and recorded over decades, but nobody knew what they were.
The similarity between the Dec. 27 burst and these short-duration bursts lies in the brief spike of hard gamma rays that arrives first and carries almost all the energy. In the recent burst, for example, the hard spike lasted only two-tenths of a second. This was followed by a "tail" of X-rays that lasted over six minutes. As the tail faded, its brightness oscillated on a 7.56 second cycle, the known rotation period of the magnetar.
According to Duncan and Thompson's theory, the oscillating X-ray tail that followed was due to a residue of electrons, positrons and gamma-rays trapped in the magnetar's magnetic field. Such a hot "trapped fireball" shrinks and evaporates over minutes, as electrons and positrons annihilate. The measurements of Hurley's team corroborate this picture. The tail's brightness appears to oscillate because the fireball is stuck to the surface of the rotating star by the magnetic field, so it rotates with the star like a lighthouse beacon.
Duncan and his team argue that the hard initial spike of these giant flares is so bright that it can be detected from very far away, meaning that some of the short flares we see are from other galaxies, though the soft X-ray tails are too faint to be seen.
Duncan and his collaborators predict that if a magnetar flares as brightly as the December 27 event within 100 million light-years of Earth, astronomers should be able to detect it. Texas astronomers John Scalo and Sheila Kannappan helped Duncan estimate the rate at which such distant flares might be seen. They estimated that of order 40% of the short bursts previously observed could have been such magnetar bursts. There is a good probability that the newly-launched Swift satellite will see a magnetar burst once a month.
Launched in November 2004 and gathering data only since January, Swift is designed to automatically turn its X-ray telescope toward a burst in order to accurately pin down its position.
Duncan's team estimates that Swift will spot an abundance of magnetars lurking in other galaxies. In some cases, Swift's X-ray telescope may even catch the oscillating tail and measure the rotation period of the faraway star.
"Swift will open up a new field of astronomy: the study of extragalactic magnetars," Duncan said.
Co-authors with Hurley, Boggs, Duncan and Thompson were D. M. Smith of the UC Santa Cruz physics department, RHESSI and Wind principal investigator and Space Sciences Laboratory Director Robert Lin, and teams of U.S., Swiss, Russian, and German scientists.
Notes to editors: Robert Duncan and Kevin Hurley will be at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Feb. 18, to attend a NASA Science Update about the Dec. 27 giant flare and observations by the recently launched Swift satellite. Duncan's cell phone number is (512) 587-0043. Hurley's cell phone number is (510) 366-4463.
Duncan normally can be reached at (512) 471-7426 or at  duncan@astro.as.utexas.edu. Hurley can be reached at his office, (510) 643-9173, or via e-mail at  khurley@ssl.berkeley.edu. Steven Boggs is at (510) 643-4129 or  boggs@ssl.berkeley.edu.
Robert Sanders, science press officer for UC Berkeley, can be reached at (510) 643-6998 or  rsanders@berkeley.edu.
Huge 'star-quake' rocks Milky Way
It turns out that the 26th and 27th of December were not only turbulent for our planet, but turbulent for our galaxy too. The explosion took place in the constellation of Sagittarius. I'm very grateful to fixed star expert Diana K Rosenberg for calculating the position and time of the explosion, which in astrological tropical zodiac terms occurred at 01CAP28; LAT 3N 25 53; DECL 19S20; RA 18 06 18. It occurred Dec 27, 2004, at 21:30:26 UT.
BBC - Astronomers say they have been stunned by the amount of energy released in a star explosion on the far side of our galaxy, 50,000 light-years away
The flash of radiation on 27 December was so powerful that it bounced off the Moon and lit up the Earth's atmosphere.
The blast occurred on the surface of an exotic kind of star - a super-magnetic neutron star called SGR 1806-20.
If the explosion had been within just 10 light-years, Earth could have suffered a mass extinction, it is said.
"We figure that it's probably the biggest explosion observed by humans within our galaxy since Johannes Kepler saw his supernova in 1604," Dr Rob Fender, of Southampton University, UK, told the BBC News website.
One calculation has the giant flare on SGR 1806-20 unleashing about 10,000 trillion trillion trillion watts.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. We have observed an object only 20km across, on the other side of our galaxy, releasing more energy in a 10th of a second than the Sun emits in 100,000 years," said Dr Fender.

VLA Probes Secrets of Mysterious Magnetar
A giant flash of energy from a supermagnetic neutron star thousands of light-years from Earth may shed a whole new light on scientists' understanding of such mysterious "magnetars" and of gamma-ray bursts. In the nearly two months since the blast, the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array (VLA) telescope has produced a wealth of surprising information about the event, and "the show goes on," with continuing observations.
The blast from an object named SGR 1806-20 came on Dec. 27, 2004, and was first detected by orbiting gamma-ray and X-ray telescopes. It was the brightest outburst ever seen coming from an object beyond our own solar system, and its energy overpowered most orbiting telescopes. The burst of gamma rays and X-rays even disturbed the Earth's ionosphere, causing a sudden disruption in some radio communications.
While the intensely bright gamma ray burst faded in a matter of minutes, the VLA and other radio telescopes have been tracking the explosion's "afterglow" for weeks, providing most of the data astronomers need to figure out the physics of the blast.
A magnetar is a superdense neutron star with a magnetic field thousands of trillions of times more intense than that of the Earth. Scientists believe that SGR 1806-20's giant burst of energy was somehow triggered by a "starquake" in the neutron star's crust that caused a catastrophic disruption in the magnetar's magnetic field. The magnetic disruption generated the huge burst of gamma rays and "boiled off" particles from the star's surface into a rapidly expanding fireball that continues to emit radio waves for weeks or months.
The VLA first observed SGR 1806-20 on Jan. 3, and has been joined by other radio telescopes in Australia, the Netherlands, and India. Scientific papers prepared for publication based on the first month's radio observations report a number of key discoveries about the object. Scientists using the VLA have found:
The fireball of radio-emitting material is expanding at roughly one-third the speed of light.
The expanding fireball is elongated, and may change its shape quickly.
Alignment of the radio waves (polarization) confirms that the fireball is not spherical.
The flare emitted an amount of energy that represents a significant fraction of the total energy stored in the magnetar's magnetic field.
Of the dozen or so magnetars known to astronomers, only one other has been seen to experience a giant outburst. In 1998, SGR 1900+14 put out a blast similar in many respects to SGR 1806-20's, but much weaker.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) astronomer Dale Frail observed the 1998 outburst and has been watching SGR 1806-20 for a decade. Both magnetars are part of the small group of objects called soft gamma-ray repeaters, because they repeatedly experience much weaker outbursts of gamma rays. In early January, he was hosting a visiting college student while processing the first VLA data from SGR 1806-20's giant outburst.
"I literally could not believe what I was looking at," Frail said. "Immediately I could see that this flare was 100 times stronger than the 1998 flare, and 10,000 times brighter than anything this object had done before."
"I couldn't stay in my chair, and this student got to see a real, live astronomer acting like an excited little kid," Frail said.
The excitement isn't over, either. "The show goes on and we continue to observe this thing and continue to get surprises," said Greg Taylor, an astronomer for NRAO and the Kavli Institute of Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology in Stanford, Calif..
One VLA measurement may cause difficulties for scientists trying to fit SGR 1806-20 into a larger picture of gamma ray bursts (GRBs). GRBs, seen regularly from throughout the universe, come in two main types--very short bursts and longer ones. The longer ones are generally believed to result when a massive star collapses into a black hole, rather than into a neutron star as in a supernova explosion. The strength and short duration of SGR 1806-20's December outburst has led some astronomers to speculate that a similar event could be seen out to a considerable distance from Earth. That means, they say, that magnetars may be the source of the short-period GRBs.
That interpretation is based to some extent on a previous measurement that indicates SGR 1806-20 is nearly 50,000 light-years from Earth. One team of observers, however, analyzed the radio emission from SGR 1806-20 and found evidence that the magnetar is only about 30,000 light-years distant. The difference, they say, reduces the likelihood that SGR 1806-20 could be a parallel for short-period GRBs.
In any case, the wealth of information astronomers have gathered about the tremendous December blast makes it an extremely important event for understanding magnetars and GRBs.
Source: The National Science Foundation

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Did a Neutron Star Explosion the Asian Tsunami? 12.Mar.2005 22:38

Dr. Xenor


"and our next guest this evening will be..." 13.Mar.2005 02:43


Thank you Doctor. Well said.