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Researchers theorize the origins of magnetars, the strongest magnet in the universe



  How do the strongest magnets in the universe form?
The simulation marks the birth of a magnetic star like Tau Scorpii. The image is a section through the orbital plane, where the color indicates the strength of the magnetic field and the light hatch reflects the direction of the magnetic field line. Picture credits: Ohlmann / Schneider / Röpke

How do some neutron stars become the strongest magnets in the universe? A German-British team of astrophysicists has found a possible answer to the question of how magnetars form. They used large computer simulations to demonstrate how the fusion of two stars produces strong magnetic fields. When such stars explode in supernovae, magnetars can form. Scientists from the University of Heidelberg, the Max Planck Society, the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies and the University of Oxford participated in the research. The results were published in Nature .

The universe is permeated by magnetic fields. For example, the sun has a shell in which convection continuously generates magnetic fields. "Although massive stars do not have such shells, we still observe a strong, large-scale magnetic field on the surface of about 1

0 percent of them," explains Dr. Fabian Schneider from the Center for Astronomy of the University of Heidelberg, who is the first author of the study in Nature . Although such fields were discovered in 1947, their origin has been difficult to determine.

Over a decade ago, scientists suggested strong magnetic fields are generated when two stars collide. "So far, however, we could not test this hypothesis because we did not have the necessary computational tools," says dr. Sebastian Ohlmann from the computer center of the Max Planck Society in Garching near Munich. This time, the researchers used the AREPO code, a highly dynamic simulation code that runs on computer clusters of the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) to explain the properties of Tau Scorpii (τ Sco), a magnetic star 500 light-years away Earth.

  How do the strongest magnets form in the universe?
The simulation marks the birth of a magnetic star like Tau Scorpii. The image is a section through the orbital plane, where the color indicates the strength of the magnetic field and the light hatch reflects the direction of the magnetic field line. Picture credits: Ohlmann / Schneider / Röpke

In 2016, Fabian Schneider and Philipp Podsiadlowski from the University of Oxford stated that τ Sco is a so-called blue straggler. Blue stragglers are the product of fused stars. "We assume that Tau Scorpii received its strong magnetic field during the fusion process," explains Prof. Dr. med. Philipp Podsiadlowski. The German-British research team has now shown by computer simulations of τ Sco that strong turbulence in the fusion of two stars can produce such a field.

Star fusions are relatively common. Scientists believe that about 10 percent of all massive stars in the Milky Way are due to such processes. This is in good agreement with the abundance of magnetic massive stars. Cutter. Astronomers believe that these very stars could form magnetars when they explode in supernovae.

This can also happen to τ Sco when it explodes at the end of his life. The computer simulations suggest that the generated magnetic field would be sufficient to explain the exceptionally strong magnetic fields in magnetars. "It is believed that magnetars have the strongest magnetic fields in the universe – up to 100 million times stronger than the strongest magnetic field ever produced by humans," says Friedrich Röpke of HITS.


Magnetic foci on neutron stars survive millions of years


Further information:
Star fusions as the origin of mass magnetic stars, Nature (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-019-1621-5, https://nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1621-5

Provided by
University of Heidelberg




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Researchers theorize the origin of magnetars, the strongest magnet in the universe (2019, October 9)
retrieved on October 9, 2019
from https://phys.org/news/2019-10-theorize-magnetars-strongest-magnets-universe.html

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