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Magnetars and Exoplanets

By Dave Reneke

News from the space and astronomy communities around the world.

David Reneke is an astronomy lecturer and teacher, a feature writer for major Australian newspapers and magazines, and a science correspondent for ABC and commercial radio. Subscribe to David’s free Astro-Space newsletter at www.davidreneke.com

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

“Impossible” Magnetar Found

A new star has been discovered that almost defies description. It has a magnetic field 20,000 times stronger and a mass 35 times than that of the Sun. That’s nearly 10 times stronger than what has been detected around any other high mass star! It’s no surprise that astronomers call it a “magnetar”.

Magnetars are characterised by their extremely powerful magnetic fields, which can reach the order of 10 GT. These magnetic fields are hundreds of millions of times stronger than any man-made magnet and quadrillions of times more powerful than the field surrounding Earth.

Magnetars are the most magnetic objects ever detected in the universe. At a distance halfway to the Moon, a magnetar could strip information from the magnetic stripes of all the credit cards on Earth.

The newly discovered star, NGC 1624-2, lies about 20,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Perseus. It’s extreme mass makes it bright and hot and likely to burn out relatively quickly after a lifetime of about 5 million years. That’s a mere one-tenth of 1% of the Sun’s current age at midlife!

While the discovery will almost certainly shed light on the role that a star’s magnetism plays in the evolution of stars and their galaxies, the fundamental processes that produce the magnetic fields of massive stars still remain poorly understood. “...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.