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The Question

(Submitted June 09, 2010)

Is it true that magnetars are not unique objects, but are just a phase in the lifespan of pulsars?

The Answer


Thanks for your question! Both magnetars and pulsars are special types of neutron stars. A magnetar is a highly magnetized neutron star and a pulsar is a rapidly-rotating neutron star with a electromagnetic jet that sweeps across the sky as the star spins. We have observations of both types of objects, and they certainly may be unique. However, there was some recent work by scientists at McGill University and NASA that showed observations of a single neutron star that seemed to exhibit both magnetar-like and pulsar-like behavior. What we don't know is if this is a very special object or if magnetars and pulsars are always related.

Here is a link to a press release on the discovery: http://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/news/item/?item_id=29230

Hope that Helps!
-Ira & Kevin
for "Ask an Astrophysicist"

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