(ORDO NEWS) — Far in the Milky Way, about 22,000 light-years from Earth, a star unlike any other radiates a magnetic force that surpasses anything physicists have ever seen.
With a whopping 1.6 billion Tesla, the Swift J0243.6+6124 pulsar broke the previous record of about 1 billion Tesla found around the pulsars GRO J1008-57 and 1A 0535+262.
For a bit of context, your average new fridge magnet is about 0.001 Tesla. More powerful MRI machines are capable of reaching about 3 Tesla.
A few years ago, engineers were rewarded for reaching a semi-decent 1200 tesla, sustaining it in just 100 microseconds.
So it goes without saying that 1.6 billion Tesla would require truly mind-blowing physics. This view is only possible for massive objects crammed into incredible volumes and spinning at incredible speeds, fast enough to propel electrons to incredible speeds.
Swift J0243.6+6124 has already been considered a star worth paying attention to. A type of ultra-compact space heavyweight known as a pulsar. It is the only X-ray source in our galaxy that falls under the superbright category.
It is also the only example in the Milky Way of an X-ray pulsar source with a Be-type companion star feeding it matter fast enough to generate radio-emitting matter jets from its poles.
By themselves, these features create a unique opportunity for astronomers in our galaxy’s backyard. it won’t help but study in detail.
However, measuring the magnetic field of a distant object is easier said than done. No matter how strong they are, these fields quickly weaken and become invisible at a distance of thousands of light years.
Fortunately, a clue can be found in how the ultra-bright X-ray glow is scattered by electrons. whistling along the magnetic track, which is known as cyclotron resonant scattering.
Launch of the Insight-HXMT X-ray observatory in China in 2017 to measure electron energies in the GRO J1008-57 field in 2020.
Fortunately, the burst of activity in Swift J0243.6+6124 after the launch of Insight-HXMT also provided insight into its own high magnetic field, with a cyclotron resonant scattering feature hidden in its X-ray spectrum.
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Sun Yat-sen University in China, as well as the University of Tübingen in Germany, subsequently analyzed the function to calculate the energy of its electrons peaking at an astounding 146 kiloelectronvolts, surpassing the previous record holders’ 90 and 100 kiloelectronvolts.
Given Swift J0243.6+6124 is the only ultraluminescent X-ray pulsar in our galaxy, accurately measuring its magnetic field gives astronomers a better idea of what might be happening near its surface.
As a type of neutron star, pulsars like Swift J0243.6+6124 are made up of atoms compressed into a configuration far beyond anything we can create on Earth. Its magnetic properties help to rule out or support various models that explain the behavior of its very compact crust.
In particular, the nature of the magnetism of a neutron star confirms the likelihood that its field is complex, consisting of several poles.
It’s a solid win for astrophysicists looking to unravel the mysteries of some of the most exotic objects in space.
For the rest of us, just trying to imagine the power of a 1.6 billion Tesla magnet attached to our refrigerator is enough.
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