Scientists Baffled By Object 10 Times Brighter Than The Sun

In April, NASA released a study on an attempt to explain an outer space phenomenon that appears to defy the laws of physics, LiveScience reported.

Last year, astronomers identified a phenomenon known as ultraluminous X-ray (ULX) sources, which exude about ten million times more energy than the Sun.

According to NASA, an object exuding that level of energy defies the Eddington limit, a law of physics that determines the brightness of an object of a given size. An object that exceeds the Eddington limit is expected to blow itself up. However, ULXs appear to exceed the Eddington limit by 100 to 500 times, NASA said.

To figure out how a ULX could exceed the Eddington limit without destroying itself, NASA scientists used the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) X-ray telescope to look for answers.

Prior theories held that the extreme brightness from ULXs could be a kind of optical illusion.

However, the results of the observation of one ULX, identified as M82 X-2, using the NuSTAR telescope, published in The Astrophysical Journal, confirmed that the brightness is not an optical illusion. M82 X-2 is exceeding the Eddington limit.

Scientists believe that M82 X-2 can exceed the Eddington limit since it is a neutron star.

Neutron stars, which are the dead core of stars like the sun, are so dense that their surface gravity is around 100 trillion times stronger than Earth’s. Gravity this strong means anything pulled onto the star’s surface will have an explosive effect.

According to NASA, even an object as light as a marshmallow would hit the surface of a neutron star “with the energy of a thousand hydrogen bombs.” 

Based on their study, the scientists found that M82 X-2 draws matter equivalent to 1.5 Earths each year. The explosions from this matter are what produce the brightness observed by astronomers.

As for why M82 X-2 does not blow up when it exceeds the Eddington limit, scientists theorize that its intense magnetic field has altered the shape of its atoms, allowing M82 X-2 to remain intact even as it grows brighter.