International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Study of distant Magnetar reveals facets of the Exotic Star


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Magnetars

Mains level: Not Much

An international group of researchers has succeeded in measuring for the first time the characteristics of a flare on a distant magnetar.

What is a Magnetar?

  • Magnetars are the most magnetic stars in the universe.
  • It is a rare compact type of neutron star teeming with energy and magnetism.
  • It is an exotic type of neutron star, its defining feature that it has an ultra-powerful magnetic field.
  • The field is about 1,000 times stronger than a normal neutron star and about a trillion times stronger than the Earth’s.
  • Magnetars are relatively rare objects, with only about thirty having been spotted within the Milky Way so far.

What is the recent study?

  • The studied magnetar is about 13 million light years away, in the direction of the NGC 253, a prominent galaxy in the Sculptor group of galaxies.
  • Its flare spewed within a few tenths of a second as much energy as the Sun would shed in 100,000 years.
  • It was captured accidentally on April 15, 2020, by the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor instrument (ASIM) of the International Space Station.
  • This is the first study to characterize such a flare from so distant a magnetar.

How do magnetars form?

  • During the course of their evolution, massive stars – with masses around 10-25 times the mass of the Sun – eventually collapse and shrink to form very compact objects called neutron stars.
  • A subset of these neutron stars is the so-called magnetars which possess intense magnetic fields.
  • These are highly dense and have breathtakingly high rotation speeds – they have rotational periods that can be just 0.3 to 12.0 seconds.

What characterizes Magnetars?

(1) Violent flares

  • The observed giant flare lasted approximately 160 milliseconds and during this time 1039 joules of energy was released.
  • The flare spewed as much energy in a tenth of a second that our Sun will radiate in 100,000 years.

(2) Starquakes

  • Eruptions in magnetars are believed to be due to instabilities in their magnetosphere, or “starquakes” produced in their crust – a rigid, elastic layer about one kilometer thick.
  • This causes waves in the magnetosphere, and interaction between these waves causes dissipation of energy.


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1 year ago

Much like their home planet, star magnetars are a unique breed of exotic stars. As the latest “spin” on this mysterious star reveals, magnetars may have magnetic fields even stronger than previously imagined, leading to new insights into the physics of these stellar oddities and also do visit site for quality work. Thank you!


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