Read out: Strange binary star system made of neutron star and remnants of a giant star What happened there 20, 000 light-years away is beyond any human imagination. On a neutron star, researchers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center observed a gigantic explosion that lasted for three hours, releasing energy equivalent to three trillion times the US's annual energy consumption.

The explosion occurred in a strange binary star system called 4U 1820-30 and was observed by the spacecraft Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer. The system consists of a neutron star and the remnants of a giant star that? quite unusual - made of pure helium.

Normally, such explosions last only a few seconds, but apparently the neutron star sucked so large amounts of helium from its neighbor star that formed as a result of nuclear fusion carbon. The explosion took place after the carbon had accumulated by the extreme gravitation inside the neutron star and burned explosively after exceeding a certain critical mass.

The neutron star has a diameter of only about 11 kilometers, but weighs as much as the sun. Every eleven minutes the two stars turn around the common axis. Death Strohmayer is certain that such explosions occur regularly in the binary system. Whether this will happen in one or 100 years, he can not say.
Image: Robert Mallozzi, University of Alabama / Huntsville Ad

Joachim Schüring

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