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The Question

(Submitted February 30, 2010)

Is there any certainty of a magnetar's mass? And that they are larger than neutron stars, just like how a smaller white dwarf is more massive than a larger white dwarf? Except with magnetars and normal neutron stars, a difference of 1 or 2 miles in diameter?

The Answer

Thank you for your message. We've consulted Dr. Gavriil, a local expert on magnetars. According to him:

Actually, we don't know why magnetars have such extraordinarily strong magnetic fields, their defining characteristic. It is true that one hypothesis states that they come from relatively massive progenitors, and hence are more massive than the average neutron stars. This is a reasonable theory, but there are others, too.

Since none of the known magnetars are in binary star systems, we have not been able to measure their masses or radii.

Best wishes,

Koji & Georgia
for "Ask an Astrophysicist"

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