An exceptionally bright flare from SGR 1806-20 and the origins of short-duration γ-ray bursts

K. Hurley, S. E. Boggs, D. M. Smith, R. C. Duncan, R. Lin, A. Zoglauer, S. Krucker, G. Hurford, H. Hudson, C. Wigger, W. Hajdas, C. Thompson, I. Mitrofanov, A. Sanin, W. Boynton, C. Fellows, A. Von Kienlin, G. Lichti, A. Rau, T. Cline

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

441 Scopus citations


Soft-γ-ray repeaters (SGRs) are galactic X-ray stars that emit numerous short-duration (about 0.1 s) bursts of hard X-rays during sporadic active periods. They are thought to be magnetars: strongly magnetized neutron stars with emissions powered by the dissipation of magnetic energy. Here we report the detection of a long (380 s) giant flare from SGR 1806-20, which was much more luminous than any previous transient event observed in our Galaxy. (In the first 0.2 s, the flare released as much energy as the Sun radiates in a quarter of a million years.) Its power can be explained by a catastrophic instability involving global crust failure and magnetic reconnection on a magnetar, with possible large-scale untwisting of magnetic field lines outside the star. From a great distance this event would appear to be a short-duration, hard-spectrum cosmic γ-ray burst. At least a significant fraction of the mysterious short-duration γ-ray bursts may therefore come from extragalactic magnetars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1098-1103
Number of pages6
Issue number7037
StatePublished - Apr 28 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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