Magnetars have been in the spotlight for quite some time, and astronomers’ work has been really puzzled by this very rare type of neutron star. So far, we have 24 confirmed magnetars, and the list could soon grow.
The recent discovery of a new magnetar has the potential to increase our understanding of these mysterious objects – only if it could be that simple.
Here is what you need to know.
Magnetar Swift J1555.2-5402 is Quite a Beast
Astronomers succeeded in detecting a new magnetar, dubbed Swift J1555.2-5402, releasing powerful fast radio bursts (FRBs). Follow-up observations were conducted via NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) telescope and Swift’s X-ray Telescope. The results are genuinely intriguing.
NICER spotted some pulsations characteristic of a magnetar, while Swift detected a new X-ray source at the coordinates of the burst. Such things confirmed that the discovery is indeed a magnetar, a mighty one.
What are magnetars
Given that we found only a few magnetars, any new addition is significant. Magnetars are a very rare type of neutron star. They’re actually the collapsed cores of some might stars that had masses between 8 and 30 times that of the Sun. So, you can understand why magnetars are kind of cosmic beasts.
When those influential stars go supernova and spit all of their outer matter, their cores turn into some of the thickest objects in the Universe. Astronomers estimated that to be almost twice the Sun’s mass, shaped into a sphere of 12 miles (20 kilometres) across.
Magnetars are pretty much all of that and maybe even more. Besides their wild nature and strong structure, they also have a magnetic field approximately 1,000 times bigger than a regular neutron star’s. That’s like a quadrillion times more than Earth’s.
So, finding more magnetars is essential because it could really help us understand how they grew such powerful magnetic fields and how they manage to keep them.