Coolly Extreme – Magnetars

Illustration of a Magnetar, Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss
Illustration of a Magnetar, Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss
At the AAS meeting in 2009 there was presentation by Denis Leahy who offered a possible explanation for the strong magnetic fields produced by an extreme object called a magnetar.  A magnetar is a type of neutron star that has a very fast rotation rate and are extremely magnetic.  These objects are born from the death of a star in a supernova and manage to preserve the magnetic field and angular momentum of the parent star.  So where do these strong magnetic fields come from?  According the Denis Leahy, they are caused by a theoretical star called a quark star.  These are neutron stars that are further compressed by gravity. These stars  “overwhelm the structure of the neutron degenerate matter, quark matter (or strange matter)”.   According to Leahy 1 in 10 supernova should result in a magnetar.

As with a lot of other astrophysics enthusiasts I love those things that are at the extremes of our fields of interest.  I’ve been following the evolution of magnetar research since I first read of them in Sky and Tel many, many moons ago.

For me magnetars rank right up there with black holes in there extreme coolness factor.  A quick search of produces 25 hits when the work magnetar is used and using the Digital Library for Physics and Astronomy produces over 200 hits.  Clearly a keen area of research.

source: Universe Today

Another current piece of research on magnetars is being conducted by astronomers from SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research have used the NTEGRAL and XMM-Newton of ESA and the NASA satellite RXTE to discover that magnetars can produce very strong x-ray pulses.  This according to Peter den Hartog of the SRON in the Netherlands.  Magnetars are interesting because they’re stars about  1  1/2 the size of our sun, squeezed into a sphere 10 kilometres in diameter.  How they form exactly is a mystery.  Magnetars can emit enormous quantities of energy in the form of X-rays, they have a lifespan of only 10,000 years.

‘By converting the observations from INTEGRAL, XMM-Newton and RXTE into a type of short film, we could see how the characteristics of the X-rays changed over the course of time,’ explains Den Hartog. The characteristics of the radiation were found to drastically change during the rotation of the magnetar. Den Hartog: ‘Three different processes were found to be taking place in the magnetar that gave rise to three different pulses.’

source:  Science Centric

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