Earlier this month, NASA released a study that attempted to explain an outer space phenomenon that defies the laws of physics, LiveScience reported.
In a study last year, astronomers identified a phenomenon known as ULXs, or ultraluminous X-ray sources, which exude about ten million times more energy than the Sun.
According to a statement from NASA, that level of energy defies the law of physics called the Eddington limit, which determines the brightness of an object of a given size. Any object that breaks the Eddington limit is expected to blow itself up. But according to NASA, these ULXs exceed the Eddington limit by 100 to 500 times.
To determine how such an object could exceed the Eddington limit without destroying itself, NASA scientists used the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) X-ray telescope to find answers.
Prior theories posited that the extreme brightness from ULXs could be a kind of optical illusion. However, the observations with NuSTAR, published in The Astrophysical Journal, confirmed that the brightness from one ULX, identified as M82 X-2, is not an optical illusion at all. Instead, it is definitely exceeding the Eddington limit.
The key to why M82 X-2 can defy the Eddington limit could be the fact that M82 X-2 is a neutron star.
A neutron star, which is the dead core of stars like the sun, is so dense that its surface gravity is around 100 trillion times stronger than Earth’s. This strong gravity means that anything pulled onto the star’s surface will have an explosive effect.
According to NASA, even a marshmallow pulled onto the surface of a neutron star would hit “with the energy of a thousand hydrogen bombs.”
The scientists found that M82 X-2 annually draws to itself matter equivalent to 1.5 Earths. It is this amount of matter hitting the neutron star’s surface that is producing the brightness observed by astronomers.
The scientists believe that this is evidence that there is something happening with M82 X-2 that allows it to defy the Eddington limit. One theory is that the intense magnetic field of a neutron star has altered the shape of its atoms, allowing M82 X-2 to remain intact even as it grows brighter.