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Ghostly Ring Found Circling Dead Star

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the check-your-optics dept.

Space 207

Roland Piquepaille writes "An international team of scientists has found a strange ring around a dead star by using images taken by NASA's Spitzer space telescope. This star, called SGR 1900+14, belongs to a class of objects known as magnetars. According to NASA, a magnetar is 'a highly magnetized neutron star and the remnant of a brilliant supernova explosion signaling the death throes of a massive star.' So far, about a dozen magnetars have been found. An amazing thing about these stellar objects is their magnetic field. One of the researchers said that 'magnetars possess magnetic fields a million billion times stronger than the magnetic field of the Earth.'

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In other news (3, Funny)

unity100 (970058) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632341)

"Dementor" announced that he intends to conquer all 3 magnetars and their orbital satellites.

Judge Dredd was not available for comment.

The ring (5, Funny)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632357)

Oh great, now that NASA posted pictures on the internet of a ghostly ring, a lot of people are going to die seven days from now.

Re:The ring (1)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632373)

They just have to show it to other people, then they're off the hook.

On the other hand, if you show it to all the people of Earth at the same time...

Re:The ring (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23632483)

I wouldn't worry abo...Whoa wait a minute. A ghostly ring, posted on Slashdot can mean only one thing. Do not RTFA! For the love of God DO NOT RTFA!

Re:The ring (5, Insightful)

dfm3 (830843) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632765)

Do not RTFA! For the love of God DO NOT RTFA!
I wouldn't be so worried about that. This is Slashdot, after all...

(As if this would be any different...) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23632825)

> a lot of people are going to die seven days from now.

Nah, only the virgins will die.

Re:The ring (2, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#23633275)

No, only Nine Lords are doomed to die. But it would be interesting to know why Sauron and Melkor are messing around with a magnetar.

Pssst! (5, Informative)

Sta7ic (819090) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632423)

"A million billion" is 10^6 * 10^9 = 10^15 ... we also call that "a quadrillion".

I'd be pretty excited about studying these things, were I a physical scientist. When you get some massively powerful EMF, electrons and protons must have very "interesting" behavior.

Re:Pssst! (1)

psychicninja (1150351) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632471)

Possibly as much as eleventy million billion times as strong!

Re:Pssst! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23633393)

I think you mean "eleventy three millionty billion"

Re:Pssst! (2, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632639)

Well, that depends... iirc, a billion in the UK is not the same thing as a billion here. A billion here is 10^9, whereas if memory serves me correctly a billion in the UK is a million million, or 10^12. Personally I wish that they would just use scientific notation with numbers over a million, so that we'd really know what sort of order of magnitude we're talking about here. The difference between the US and UK systems just gets worse as the magnitudes get larger.

Re:Pssst! (4, Informative)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632773)

The standard for a billion has been 10^9 all over the world now for some years. The older value was abandoned in the UK in 1974.

Re:Pssst! (5, Insightful)

pablomme (1270790) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632947)

Only if by "all over the world" you mean English-speaking countries and Brazil. Citing Wikipedia [wikipedia.org],

Most countries and languages in the world use the traditional long scale
somewhat in contrast with your statement.

Re:Pssst! (4, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632967)

I was just about to make a remark about you being an insensitive clod ;-), but please note that billion being 10^12 is not an "older value" in certain countries. Actually, their list [wikipedia.org] is much longer.

Oh yes, I am aware than on an English-speaking (-writing ?) web site, one has to expect (= billion (expt 10 9)). On the other hand, I have noticed that for many of us Nonenglishmen and Nonamericans, it is simply still often an issue of our subconsciousness that we calculate with long scale numbers without realizing at first. Therefore refraining from using words like "million billion" and using "10^15" instead might actually be a good idea, especially in case of scientific topics. :-)

Re:Pssst! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23633089)

The standard for a billion has been 10^9 all over the world now for some years. The older value was abandoned in the UK in 1974.
But the point made about using scientific notation is still valid as words for the million and billion (at least in the romance languages) are 10^6 and 10^12 respectively.

Re:Pssst! (5, Informative)

fyoder (857358) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632823)

Well, that depends... iirc, a billion in the UK is not the same thing as a billion here. A billion here is 10^9, whereas if memory serves me correctly a billion in the UK is a million million, or 10^12.
Long and short scales [wikipedia.org]

Had to look that up because it sounded nuts. However, looks like you're sort of right, other than for the fact that UK has abandoned the long scale in favour of the short. So a quadrillion there is now a thousand trillion as well, rather than a 'billiard'.

Re:Pssst! (4, Funny)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#23633237)

Well, they had a choice. Either switch to the small scale or have very, very large billiard tables.

Re:Pssst! (1)

pablomme (1270790) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632857)

The UK and the US use the same 'billion', as do most other English-speaking countries. It's (about) the rest of the world that disagrees. More here [wikipedia.org].

I personally prefer billion=10^12. 'Thousand million' doesn't take that long to pronounce, and you quickly run out of *illions otherwise.

Re:Pssst! (1)

Aranwe Haldaloke (789555) | more than 5 years ago | (#23633781)

In the UK (and in any country that uses the same "million" system) a "million billion" is 10^6 × 10^12 = 10^18 and is called a "trillion," which is already greater than the US' "quadrillion" (since, as a previous poster already pointed out, 10^6 × 10^9 = 10^15)

Re:Pssst! (1)

l00sr (266426) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632989)

I prefer to call that number a thousand thousand thousand thousand thousand thousand thousand thousand thousand thousand thousand thousand thousand thousand thousand, thank you very much.

Re:Pssst! (3, Interesting)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#23633319)

I'm not a physicist, but I'm still fascinated by astronomical phenomena like this. Can anyone tell me what the effects of ultra-strong magnetic fields would be on a living creature? I know we can levitate frogs with powerful magnets [hfml.ru.nl], but nothing strange happens to the frog itself. Can we withstand a magnetic field of any strength?

Re:Pssst! (1)

xPsi (851544) | more than 5 years ago | (#23633959)

million billion times stronger than the magnetic field of the Earth
In cgs units, that's about 0.5 PG (petagauss) or, in SI, 50 GT (gigatesla). Definitely watch your credit cards around that one.

not a ring (3, Interesting)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632435)

What ring? It just looks out of focus to me.

Re:not a ring (4, Informative)

Pollardito (781263) | more than 5 years ago | (#23633629)

the ring is the empty looking space to the right of the star. the picture is kind of misleading because it seems like they're talking about a ring around that star, but the ring is instead circling an invisible object that's near it: "The magnetar itself is not visible in this image, as it has not been detected at infrared wavelengths (it has been seen in X-ray light)."

I for one welcome . . . (4, Funny)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632437)

. . . whoever the hell ran weapon tests on that star and its planets.

Hail Whoever!

Re:I for one welcome . . . (5, Interesting)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632457)

Who said it was a test?

Re:I for one welcome . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23633229)

How in the HELL is that insightful? No one said it wasn't a test. That's insane. I've said it before and I'll say it again, mass-moderation doesn't work.

Re:I for one welcome . . . (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632645)

That's not actually a ring, it's a tight spiral made of metal.

I, for one, welcome our magnetar-harnessing electricity-generation overlords.

Run!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23632463)

Its Reevers!

Link with pic (5, Informative)

IronChef (164482) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632465)

why oh why (4, Funny)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632477)

As soon as I read the summary I immediately thought 'Intergalactic Goatse'.

I need less internets.

Re:why oh why (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632587)

I immediately thought 'Intergalactic Goatse'

Just wait for the the "Uranus ring" jokes!

Wait a second (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23632485)

I think I've been reading /. too much...
For I moment I was wondering what Dark Vader is up to now, putting a new secret ring weapon on his Death Star!

Ringworld (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23632533)

AKA a poor man's Dyson Sphere.

Ringworld? (4, Funny)

spineboy (22918) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632563)

Cool!, now we just need a General Products hull # 4 sufficient for colonization. Except that the damn star is dead.

Re:Ringworld? (4, Funny)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 5 years ago | (#23633035)

Dear Partners and VARS,

The following is privileged information as described by your General Products N.D.A. and is not to be transmitted to customers or third parties.

while our General Products Hulls including the #4 provide protection against most hazards encountered in interstellar travel, gravitational tides with a steep gradient such as those found in the vicinity of neutron stars including magnetars can in fact cause bodily harm to occupants while not damaging or voiding warranty on the hull, e.g. rendering of tissues/organs to pulp or plasma.

Also, although not widely advertised, antimatter may destroy a G.P. hull completely, and void the warranty, service agreements and maintenance contracts.

We are not putting out any bulletins to customers or potential clients at this time, and partners only are to communicate any issues or incidents to our Hindmost and Vice Hindmost Partner's Relationship Manager, but going forward G.P. will deal with any occurrences on a case by base basis.

Yours Very Truly,

Messus, HTO, General Products

Re:Ringworld? (1)

Agripa (139780) | more than 5 years ago | (#23633207)

Wait, I did not know that antimatter could destroy a General Products hull.

Re:Ringworld? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#23633303)

What amazed me was not that antimatter could destroy a GP hull, but that the main character who happened to be in said hull at the time was still more-or-less intact afterwards (as opposed to becoming a thin veneer over the cosmic background radiation).

Re:Ringworld? (1)

pndmnm (807945) | more than 5 years ago | (#23633655)

(This is from memory -- forgive me my errors.) A General Products hull is composed of a single molecule artificially strengthened with generated fields. If it comes in contact with enough antimatter to destroy a "sufficient" number of the atoms in the molecule, the hull will essentially unravel. Prior to the "most interesting planet" incident, GP did not believe that there was antimatter present in sufficient quantities in our galaxy to initiate such a reaction.

Update (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 5 years ago | (#23633929)

We will pay off all warranties and contracts effective of the date of this message, as we are leaving the galaxy. Please forward any correspondence to Messus@earth.gov.

  Thank you for you business, and we look forward to doing business with you again in the future.

  Sincerely

  Messus

Not Ringworld, it is a smoke ring. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23633749)

Immediately upon reading this article I thought of Larry Niven.
But not Ringworld. This isn't solid.

Instead it is a smoke ring, the setting of a couple of his novels. Read the "Integral Trees" and the sequel "The Smoke Ring". From his non-Known Space universe.

Just gotta love the megastructure scales he works with.

I must be tired (2, Funny)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632583)

I read it as "Ghosttly Ring found circling Death Star". I got strange thoughts in the 3 seconds in the 3 seconds after I read that sentence.

Re:I must be tired (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23632889)

I know what you know what you mean. Get some coffee dude!

Re:I must be tired (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23633363)

I had it worse, I read it as: "Ghost Riding found causing [stopped reading here]"

I need to lay off the You Tube, or find out what Ghost Riding is causing (natural selection if I had to guess).

L. Ron Hubbard nemesis (1)

wardk (3037) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632585)

OMG the ring is back!

time for another round of postcards and seminars, it must be defeated at all costs....

Rings aren't that uncommon! (1)

pacroon (846604) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632595)

I am betting it is the usual debris from explosions like most other cases. Just like it is Saturn. Many planets actually have them, even Jupitor, Uranus and Neptune in our own solar system! Though Saturn's the most famous one.

Question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23632613)

Does anyone here know what happens EM radiation passing through these huge magnetic fields?

...But is it polarized? (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632707)

What I want to know is whether a ring in that kind of magnetic field has a strong polarity. And I hope nobody tries sending out metal-based probes to find out.

Million billion? (1)

Aaron Denney (123626) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632797)

What, they don't expect people to understand "quadrillion"?

Re:Million billion? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632805)

What, they don't expect people to understand "quadrillion"?

10^12 is far too big for the average scientist to understand - oh wait.

Re:Million billion? (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 5 years ago | (#23632875)

I "understand" that a quadrillion is 10^15, but it's not a number on a scale I typically work with. On the other hand, I'm very used to dealing with the quantities "billion" and "million" -- we encounter and interact with such quantities every day when using technology. So I can actually start to imagine what a "million billion" is by comparing it with quantities I have already internalized. "Quadrillion" is more abstract. The only thing that immediately comes to mind is "really damn large number."

I actually appreciate having numbers broken down this way, and will often do it myself when dealing with large quantities.

Mr. Neutron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23633067)

If you can hear "Million Billion" without thinking of Mr. Neutron, then...well obviously you haven't wasted enough of your life.

Re:Million billion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23633777)

I chose to use the term "million billion" because people generally hear/see those words in every day life (often in the context of the federal budget/debt - let's hope that we don't start using "quadrillion" in those contexts).

-Don Figer

Halo Found ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23632869)

Crap... I hope the Covenent do not find the index and fire that baby up !!!

No flair for drama (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23633023)

It would be more dramatic if they had found a deadly ring circling a ghost star.

What are these scientists thinking about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23633027)

From the article: "...Young, hot stars blow bubbles in space..." Man, it must be nice to be this guy "Bubbles"! What's he got that I don't?

Halo? (1)

euxneks (516538) | more than 5 years ago | (#23633111)

Ah crap. I read the article and it's just some cosmological events.. I was kind of hoping it would be a construct like HALO or ringworld.. =) Ah well..

Re:Halo? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#23633325)

The title does, in fact, refer to movie-edition Ming The Merciless' ring, which was found encompassing a micro-miniaturized Hollywood celebrity.

Constellation... (4, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 5 years ago | (#23633365)

So far, about a dozen magnetars have been found.

Most are in the constellation "Refrigetar".

Re:Constellation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23633477)

Nice one lol

1 / .5 = 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23633437)

"Magnetars possess magnetic fields a million billion times stronger than the magnetic field of the Earth," Figer says. The magnetic field of a magnetar is one petagauss (10 to the 15th or 1,000,000,000,000,000 gauss) while, in comparison, Earth's magnetic field strength registers at 0.5 gauss


Then wouldn't it be 2 million billion times stronger than the magnetic field of earth?

Good thing they're astronomers and not mathematicians. har har har

One Ring to Rule Them All (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23633513)

One Ring To Rule Them All, One Ring To Find Them, One Ring To Bring Them All And In The Darkness Bind Them!

-JRRT

kiddie math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23633791)

We can't handle big numbers like a boozooklemegamunklecajillion.

Thanks for helping us out with the million billion retard stuff.

Very Attractive (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 5 years ago | (#23633935)

If the Earth's core were a permanent magnet using, say, neodymium, then its magnetic field would be as strong as that dead star's. Stick that trillion teraton magnet on your refrigerator!
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