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: NASA Webb's heart survives deep freeze test

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cosmic jets of young stars formed by magnetic fields

Oct 16, 2014

Astrophysical jets are counted among our Universe's most spectacular phenomena: From the centers of black holes, quasars, or protostars, these rays of matter sometimes protrude several light years into space. ...

Most stars are born in clusters, some leave 'home'

Sep 24, 2014

New modeling studies from Carnegie's Alan Boss demonstrate that most of the stars we see were formed when unstable clusters of newly formed protostars broke up. These protostars are born out of rotating clouds ...

Radio telescopes unravel mystery of nova gamma rays

Oct 08, 2014

Highly-detailed radio-telescope images have pinpointed the locations where a stellar explosion called a nova emitted gamma rays, the most energetic form of electromagnetic waves. The discovery revealed a ...

Recommended for you

NASA Webb's heart survives deep freeze test

7 hours ago

After 116 days of being subjected to extremely frigid temperatures like that in space, the heart of the James Webb Space Telescope, the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) and its sensitive instruments, ...

Cosmic rays threaten future deep-space astronaut missions

12 hours ago

Crewed missions to Mars remain an essential goal for NASA, but scientists are only now beginning to understand and characterize the radiation hazards that could make such ventures risky, concludes a new paper ...

Big black holes can block new stars

14 hours ago

Massive black holes spewing out radio-frequency-emitting particles at near-light speed can block formation of new stars in aging galaxies, a study has found.

MAVEN studies passing comet and its effects

14 hours ago

NASA's newest orbiter at Mars, MAVEN, took precautions to avoid harm from a dust-spewing comet that flew near Mars today and is studying the flyby's effects on the Red Planet's atmosphere.

User comments : 0