Scientists have managed to measure the intense magnetic field of a neutron star, with the support of the Chinese space telescope Insight-HXMT. After studying the X-ray spectrum of the system, they determined that its power was 60 percent higher than the example that held the previous record. The most powerful new magnetic field in the cosmos is equivalent to the force that 300 billion fridge magnets would deliver.
Researchers from the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, together with an international team of collaborators, have managed to discover the strongest magnetic field measured directly in the universe so far. The measurement, carried out thanks to the first Chinese X-ray astronomy satellite, Insight-HXMT, showed a force of 1.6 billion Tesla (the unit of measurement of magnetic induction) on the surface of a neutron star, far exceeding the record previous.
a huge force
It is known that the surfaces of neutron stars they have stronger magnetic fields than any other known object in the cosmos. However, not all neutron stars have the same conditions and measuring these magnetic fields is a great challenge.
Now, in a new study recently published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, a group of specialists report that they have overcome this hurdle and have managed to detect a magnetic field of unique features throughout the universe.
Experts analyzed Insight-HXMT observations of the outbreak of the Swift J0243.6+6124 binary systemwhich occurred in 2017. In these binary systems, the powerful gravitational field of the neutron star, considered the strongest in the cosmos along with that of black holes, extracts gas from its companion star, forming an accretion disk.
According to a press release, the plasma present in this disk is notoriously affected by both magnetic fields and gravitational forces, falling on the surface of the neutron star and on its magnetic field lines, releasing X-rays in that process.
As neutron stars rotate, these X-rays create pulses seen from Earth. Electrons moving around the magnetic field absorb some of these X-rays. The stronger the neutron star’s magnetic field, the more energy X-rays can absorb electrons.
Therefore, the highest energy absorption line provides a measure of the intensity of magnetic field located near the surface of the neutron star.
An ultraluminous pulsar
The violent phenomenon results in the creation of one of the strangest and most extreme objects in the universe: a huge explosion called ultraluminous x-ray pulsar. The example studied was the first pulsar of this type identified in the Milky Way, but it also revealed its incredible energy absorption capacity.
The measurement obtained exceeded the magnetic field previously considered to be the most intense by sixty percent, reaching a power of approximately 150 million times the strength of the magnet in the most powerful MRI machine on the planet.
Insight-HXMT Discovery of the Highest-energy CRSF from the First Galactic Ultraluminous X-Ray Pulsar Swift J0243.6+6124. Ling-Da Kong et al. The Astrophysical Journal Letters (2022). DOI:https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/ac7711