An artist’s impression of a neutron star wrapped in a powerful magnetic field – a magnetar. Image: ESA
Astronomers have found what appears to be the youngest neutron star yet discovered, a compact, fast-spinning pulsar born in a supernova blast just 240 years ago that boasts a magnetic field 70 quadrillion times stronger than Earth’s. That makes it one of just 31 magnetars discovered to date in a population of more than 3,000 known neutron stars.
Known as Swift J1818.0−1607, the magnetar is about 15,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius. It completes one rotation every 1.36 seconds and crams twice the mass of the Sun into a body just 25 kilometres (15 miles) across.
“Spotting something so young, just after it formed in the Universe, is extremely exciting,” said Paolo Esposito of the University School for Advanced Studies IUSS Pavia, Italy, and lead author of a paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
“People on Earth would have been able to see the supernova explosion that formed this baby magnetar around 240 years ago, right in the middle of the American and French revolutions.”
Neutron stars are formed when the cores of massive stars run out of nuclear fuel ...