There is only one known class of non-destructive, highly energetic astrophysical object in the Universe whose energy emission varies by more than a factor of 100 on time scales of less than a minute -- soft gamma repeaters/anomalous X-ray pulsars, whose flares are believed to be caused by the energy release from the cracking of a neutron star's surface by very strong magnetic fields. All other known violent, rapid explosions, including gamma-ray bursts and supernovae, are believed to destroy the object in the process. Here, we report the discovery of a second class of non-destructive, highly energetic rapidly flaring X-ray object located within two nearby galaxies with fundamentally different properties than soft gamma repeaters/anomalous X-ray pulsars. One source is located within a suspected globular cluster of the host galaxy and flared one time, while the other source is located in either a globular cluster of the host galaxy or the core of a stripped dwarf companion galaxy that flared on five occasions over a seven year time span. When not flaring, the sources appear as normal accreting neutron star or black hole X-ray binaries, indicating that the flare event does not significantly disrupt the host system. While the nature of these sources is still unclear, the discovery of these sources in decade-old archival Chandra X-ray Observatory data illustrates the under-utilization of X-ray timing as a means to discover new classes of explosive events in the Universe.
American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts #227
- Pub Date:
- January 2016