A giant γ-ray flare from the magnetar SGR 1806-20

D. M. Palmer, S. Barthelmy, N. Gehrels, R. M. Kippen, T. Cayton, C. Kouveliotou, D. Eichler, R. A.M.J. Wijers, P. M. Woods, J. Granot, Y. E. Lyubarsky, E. Ramirez-Ruiz, L. Barbier, M. Chester, J. Cummings, E. E. Fenimore, M. H. Finger, B. M. Gaensler, D. Hullinger, H. KrimmC. B. Markwardt, J. A. Nousek, A. Parsons, S. Patel, T. Sakamoto, G. Sato, M. Suzuki, J. Tueller

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Abstract

Two classes of rotating neutron stars-soft γ-ray repeaters (SGRs) and anomalous X-ray pulsars-are magnetars, whose X-ray emission is powered by a very strong magnetic field (B ≈ 1015 G). SGRs occasionally become 'active', producing many short X-ray bursts. Extremely rarely, an SGR emits a giant flare with a total energy about a thousand times higher than in a typical burst. Here we report that SGR 1806-20 emitted a giant flare on 27 December 2004. The total (isotropic) flare energy is 2 × 1046 erg, which is about a hundred times higher than the other two previously observed giant flares. The energy release probably occurred during a catastrophic reconfiguration of the neutron star's magnetic field. If the event had occurred at a larger distance, but within 40 megaparsecs, it would have resembled a short, hard γ-ray burst, suggesting that flares from extragalactic SGRs may form a subclass of such bursts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1107-1109
Number of pages3
JournalNature
Volume434
Issue number7037
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 28 2005

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Palmer, D. M., Barthelmy, S., Gehrels, N., Kippen, R. M., Cayton, T., Kouveliotou, C., Eichler, D., Wijers, R. A. M. J., Woods, P. M., Granot, J., Lyubarsky, Y. E., Ramirez-Ruiz, E., Barbier, L., Chester, M., Cummings, J., Fenimore, E. E., Finger, M. H., Gaensler, B. M., Hullinger, D., ... Tueller, J. (2005). A giant γ-ray flare from the magnetar SGR 1806-20. Nature, 434(7037), 1107-1109. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03525