"Artist’s impression of a gamma-ray burst and supernova powered by a magnetar" by ESO / CC BY 4.0

A Strange, Sleeping Magnetar Just Woke Up After a Decade of Silence

Mar 15, 2019

By Rafi Letzter

A particularly odd, spinning star has woken up, and it”s spitting bright flashes of radio waves at us again.

The stellar spinner is a magnetar, which is a type of neutron star — a Manhattan-size remnant of a larger star, and the densest type of object besides black holes that we’ve detected anywhere in the universe.

This particular magnetar is called XTE J1810–197. It’s one of only 23 magnetars and one of just four radio magnetars ever discovered, and it first turned up in 2004. Then, in late 2008, it went dormant and no longer emitted radio waves. On Dec. 8, 2018, it woke up again, and it”s a bit changed. The researchers who spotted its awakening reported their finding in a paper uploaded March 6 to the preprint server arXiv.

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