Observations have shown that magnetar stars have no atmosphere

(ORDO NEWS) — Some neutron stars have extremely powerful magnetic fields. Judging by the polarization of the radiation of one of these magnetars, this field is so strong that it causes the atmosphere to condense and turn into a solid phase.

At the end of their lives, having exhausted the fuel for thermonuclear reactions, large stars collapse under the influence of their own gravity.

The largest of them form black holes, and those for whom there is not enough mass become neutron stars.

These are objects of incredible density: with a size of a couple of tens of kilometers, they gain a mass comparable to the mass of the entire Sun.

And some are distinguished by an extremely strong magnetic field. From time to time, such magnetars flare up and emit incredible amounts of energy in a fraction of a second, including in the form of X-rays and gamma rays.

The physics of neutron stars and magnetars is extremely complex, and researchers still don’t know exactly how their surface and atmosphere work.

The new work of an international team of European scientists will help answer these questions. Judging by its results, magnetars have a solid surface, but they do not have an atmosphere.

The authors used data from the NASA IXPE space observatory, which monitors the polarization of X-rays from black holes and neutron stars.

The object was the magnetar 4U 0142 + 61, located 13 thousand light years from us. The atmosphere acts as a kind of filter for photons, causing them to polarize.

However, observations have shown that the radiation of 4U 0142+61 is insufficiently polarized, which may indicate the absence of an atmosphere.

Due to the extremely strong magnetic field, the gas that could surround the star turned into a solid phase.

At the same time, scientists have found that X-ray photons 4U 0142+61 are polarized in two mutually perpendicular planes.

This is consistent with the theory that, when passing through a superpowerful magnetic field, the radiation acquires polarization in one of two directions.

Photons of relatively low energies are polarized parallel to its lines of force, but the higher their energy, the more often particles appear that are polarized perpendicular to the magnetic field.

“The polarization of low-energy photons suggests that the magnetic field is exceptionally strong and turns the atmosphere around the star into a solid or liquid during a process known as magnetic condensation,” said Professor Roberto Turolla, one of the authors of the work.


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