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Researchers Observe Formation of a Magnetar 6.5 Billion Light Years Away

Posted by Guy Pirro 04/24/2019 07:21PM

Researchers Observe Formation of a Magnetar 6.5 Billion Light Years Away

Magnetars are some of the most extreme objects in the Universe. They are extremely compact objects with masses like our Sun, but with radii of only about 12 miles. One teaspoon of neutron star/magnetar matter weighs as much as Mount Everest. Magnetars generate extremely powerful magnetic fields -- the most intense magnetic fields observed in the Universe. When two neutron stars merge to become a magnetar, the resulting magnetic field is a quadrillion (that is, a million billion) times stronger than the magnetic field that deflects compass needles at the Earth's surface. The field strength is so intense that it heats the surface to 18 million degrees Fahrenheit. Magnetars are born rotating very quickly, which causes their magnetic fields to get amplified. But after a few thousand years, their intense magnetic field slows their spin to a more moderate period of one rotation every few seconds. The magnetic fields both inside and outside the star twist, however, and according to the theory, these intense fields can stress and move the crust much like shearing along the San Andreas Fault in California. The shear moves the crust around along with the magnetic fields tied to the crust, generating twists in the magnetic field that can sometimes break and reconnect in a process that sends trapped positrons and electrons flying out from the star, annihilating each other in a gigantic explosion of X-rays and hard gamma rays. By observing an outburst of these X-ray emission from a galaxy approximately 6.5 billion light years away, researchers found that this was due to the merger of two neutron stars to produce a magnetar. Based on this observation, the researchers were able to calculate that mergers like this happen roughly 20 times per year in each region of a billion light years cubed.


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