Supernovas are mind-boggling. But supernovas are not all the same. For example, magnetars.
Like other neutron stars, magnetars are around 20 kilometres (12 mi) in diameter and have a mass 2–3 times that of the Sun. The density of the interior of a magnetar is such that a thimble full of its substance would have a mass of over 100 million tons.
The magnetic field of a magnetar would be lethal even at a distance of 1000 km due to the strong magnetic field distorting the electron clouds of the subject’s constituent atoms, rendering the chemistry of life impossible. [The “How the Universe Works” episode about supernovas that I watched today on TV said that “it would suck the iron out of your blood.”] At a distance of halfway from earth to the moon, a magnetar could strip information from the magnetic stripes of all credit cards on Earth. As of 2010, they are the most powerful magnetic objects detected throughout the universe.
It is estimated that about one in ten supernova explosions results in a magnetar rather than a more standard neutron star or pulsar.
9 thoughts on “Magneto’s star”
This seminar discusses the life cycle of black holes:
Alan Weinstein, Professor of Physics (Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy)
LISTENING TO THE DANCE OF BLACK HOLES
Black holes are the sites of the strongest gravitational fields in the universe. In pairs, they orbit each other, and the rapidly changing gravity produces vibrations of space itself, which travel to us as gravitational waves. As the pair loses all of its orbital energy, the two black holes merge into one, emitting an incredible burst of gravitational waves. LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), operated by Caltech and MIT, have designed, built, and operated two huge detectors that can now “hear” these vibrations from the warped parts of the universe. Come listen! — Caltech | Alumni Reunion Weekend 2017 (80th Annual Seminar Day) Program
This August 2, 2017, Space.com article “Rebel Supernova Formed in ‘Heavy Metal’ Galaxy” discusses research on superluminous supernovas.
Today (October 25, 2017), this Space.com article “Magnetic Fields Are the Unsung Workhorses of Astrophysics” caught my attention. It reminded me of how the Voyager space probes monitored magnetic fields in order to mark interstellar space.
Phys.org > “Researchers theorize origins of magnetars, the strongest magnets in the universe” by Heidelberg University (October 9, 2019)
Compare the strength of a magnetar’s field to that of the best man-made accelerator > Phys.org > “Fermilab achieves world-record field strength for accelerator magnet” by Leah Hesla, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (September 9, 2019)
The fastest spinning magnetar known …
Phys.org > “Mysterious spinning neutron star detected in the Milky Way proves to be an extremely rare discovery” by ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (July 7, 2020).
Another benchmark in the cosmic distance ladder.
• Phys.org > “VLBA makes first direct distance measurement to magnetar” by National Radio Astronomy Observatory (Sept 18, 2020)
Neutron star magnetic fields and X-ray binaries.
• Phys.org > “Strongest magnetic field in universe directly detected by X-ray space observatory” by Liu Jia, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Sept 10, 2020)
Magnetars … Milky Way fast radio bursts …
• Caltech Weekly > “A Magnificent Burst from Within Our Galaxy” (November 4, 2020) – Caltech’s STARE2 project helps pinpoint cause of mysterious fast radio bursts
• YouTube > NASA > “NASA Missions Team Up to Study Unique Magnetar Outburst” (Nov 4, 2020)
• CNET > “Mysterious fast radio burst spotted in the Milky Way traced to extreme, rare star” by Jackson Ryan (Nov 4, 2020) – The first detection of a fast radio burst inside the Milky Way leads astronomers back to a magnetar, partially solving a long-standing mystery.
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