This event is dubbed a starquake
and scientists detected the largest one on record in 2004, on a magnetar 500,000 light years away from Earth.
That's what happened on August 27: A magnetar "starquake
" spewed streams of intense radiation into space.
All known pulsars are slowing down, but, unlike the others, PSR1937 21 has never yet shown a glitch or "starquake
,' a sudden discontinuous speedup in pulse rate, after which the slowing down resumes.
That flare could be created by a massive disruption of the magnetic field after a starquake
on the magnetar's surface, Thornton says.
This powerful "starquake
" transforms huge quantities of magnetic energy into gamma rays and subatomic particles.
The crust rapidly shifts like a "starquake
," causing the field outside the star also to untwist and rearrange itself into a lower-energy state.
(The word "giant" is appropriate: a typical starquake
would measure magnitude 22 on the Richter scale!) That kind of collapse would make the star spin faster in the same way that ice skaters accelerate by pulling in their arms.
What's more, newly publicized data suggest that a "starquake
" or "reverse glitch" stepped briefly on the pulsar's brakes last year.
It is the first planet that has been identified by the mission in which a distant planet's "starquakes
" could be measured - allowing scientists to learn even more about its character.
However, sometimes the neutron stars will glitch due to starquakes
, causing them to wobble and either speed up or slow down in their spinning.
So magnetars--neutron stars with powerful magnetic fields--might be the culprit, producing flares when starquakes
break the magnetar's brittle crust.