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Originally posted by Sargoth
And is there any consensus on the Hale Bopp companion?
Here's a good article on it with a great photo at the bottom.
Gamma-ray fireworks now erupting from rare stellar object
University Park, Pa. -- Astronomers using NASA's Swift satellite and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope are seeing frequent blasts from an object that is 30,000 light-years from Earth. The high-energy fireworks are X-ray and gamma-ray flares coming from a rapidly-spinning and super-magnetic remnant of an exploded star -- an unusual type of stellar cinder called a soft-gamma-ray repeater.
"We have observed periods when this remarkable object has erupted with dozens -- even more than a hundred -- flares in as little as 20 minutes," says Loredana Vetere, a postdoctoral scholar at Penn State who is coordinating the Swift observations. "The most intense flares emitted more total energy in less than half a second than our Sun does in 20 years."
High-resolution images and an animation are on the Web at [link to www.science.psu.edu]
The source began a series of modest eruptions on Oct. 3, 2008, but appeared to settle down. Then, on Jan. 22, 2009, it roared back to life with a more intense round of flares.
"As a result of its recent activity, this object has been classified as a soft-gamma-ray repeater. It it is only the sixth soft-gamma-ray repeater discovered so far," Vetere said. The object is continuing to erupt and the scientists are continuing to observe it.
Gehrels said in an email interview that the effect was similar to a solar-induced disruption but that the effect was "much smaller than a big solar flare."