Scientists discover the Universe's strongest magnetic field

Mar 30, 2006

Scientists from The University of Exeter and the International University, Bremen have discovered what is thought to be the strongest magnetic field in the Universe. In a paper in the journal Science, Dr Daniel Price and Professor Stephan Rosswog show that violent collisions between neutron stars in the outer reaches of space create this field, which is 1000 million million times larger than our earth's own magnetic field. It's thought that these collisions could be behind some of the brightest explosions in the Universe since the Big Bang, so-called short Gamma-ray bursts.

Dr Daniel Price, of the School of Physics at The University of Exeter, said: " We have managed to simulate, for the first time, what happens to the magnetic field when neutron stars collide, and it seems possible that the magnetic field produced could be sufficient to spark the creation of Gamma-ray bursts. Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions we can detect but until recently little to nothing has been known about how they are generated.

It's thought that strong magnetic fields are essential in producing them, but until now no one has shown how fields of the required intensity could be created."

He continues: "What really surprised us was just how fast these tremendous fields are generated - within one or two milliseconds after the stars hit each other. "

Prof Stephan Rosswog, of the International University, Bremen, Germany, adds: "Even more incredible is that the magnetic field strengths reached in the simulations are just lower limits on the strengths that may be actually be produced in nature.

It has taken us months of nearly day and night programming to get this project running - just to calculate a few milliseconds of a single collision takes several weeks on a supercomputer."

The remnants of supernovae, neutron stars are formed when massive stars run out of nuclear fuel and explode, shedding their outer layers and leaving behind a small but extremely dense core.

When two neutron stars are left orbiting each other, they will spiral slowly together, resulting in these massive collisions.

Source: University of Exeter

Explore further: Spacecraft closing in on Pluto hits speed bump, but recovers

Related Stories

Extreme lab at European X-ray laser XFEL is a go

1 hour ago

The Helmholtz Senate has given the green light for the Association's involvement in the Helmholtz International Beamline (HIB), a new kind of experimentation station at the X-ray laser European XFEL in Hamburg, ...

Understanding the oscillations of magnetic white dwarfs

Jun 26, 2015

Researchers at the Paris-Saclay "Astrophysics, Instrumentation, Modelling" laboratory (AIM – CNRS/CEA/Université Paris Diderot), of the CEA's Military Applications Division (DAM) and from the Universe and Theories Laboratory ...

Recommended for you

Uranus' moon Titania

19 hours ago

Like all of the Solar Systems' gas giants, Uranus has an extensive system of moons. In fact, astronomers can now account for 27 moons in orbit around Uranus. Of these, none are greater in size, mass, or surface ...

Image: Europa's blood-red scars

19 hours ago

Jupiter's moon Europa is a bizarre place. There is something undeniably biological about this image, sent back by NASA's Galileo spacecraft – the moon is scarred by deep red gashes, resembling the vibrant ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.