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Magnetars - the heavy girls

Ulysses Captures Gamma-Ray Flare from Shattered Star
ASTRA - Astronomy and Space Science News Headlines

SGR1900+14 is a newly discoverd type of star called a "magnetar" - a dense ball of super-heavy matter about the size of a city, but weighing more than the Sun.

An intense wave of gamma rays, emanating from a catastrophic magnetic flare on a mysterious star 20,000 light years away, struck the Earth's atmosphere on August 27, 1998, providing important clues about some of the most unusual stars in the Universe.

Scientists said the gamma radiation posed no health risk to humans. The wave hit the night side of the Earth and ionized (or knocked electrons out of) the atoms in the upper atmosphere to a level usually seen only during daytime. This astonishing blast of ionization was detected by Prof. Umran Inan of Stanford University. "It is extremely rare for an event occurring outside the solar system to have any measurable effect on the Earth," Inan said. It was so powerful that it blasted sensitive detectors to maximum or off-scale on at least seven scientific spacecraft in Earth orbit and around the solar system. The wave of radiation emanated from a newly discovered type of star called a magnetar. Magnetars are dense balls of super- heavy matter, no larger than a city but weighing more than the Sun.

They have the greatest magnetic field known in the Universe, so intense that it powers a steady glow of X-rays from the star's surface, often punctuated by brief, intense gamma-ray flashes, and occasionally by cataclysmic flares like the one observed on August 27. Astronomers think that all these effects are caused by an out-of-control magnetic field -- a field capable of heating, mixing, and sometimes cracking the star's rigid surface to bits.

See also

Our discussion forum on beyond_routines.

http://www.magnetars.com [e]
http://www.rtd1.com/astra/ulysses/index.html [e]


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