October is obviously a spooky time (because of Halloween and all that) so, we’re hoping this blog will give you a little fright. After that, it’s back to your regularly scheduled magnetic news and such. In this blog, we’re discussing one of the scariest celestial bodies in the known universe - the magnetar.

What is a Magnetar?

In the past, we’ve compared magnetars and pulsars but today, we’re diving into magnetars in a little more detail. When a massive star runs out of fuel and collapses, a neutron star is born. However, for every 10 massive stars that collapse, one of those becomes a magnetar. While small in diameter, magnetars have 2-3 times the mass of our sun.

What makes these magnetars so scary? Their magnetic fields are insanely strong! A magnetar’s magnetic field weighs in at around 10¹⁵ gauss. For comparison’s sake, the magnetic field of the Earth’s core is around 25 gauss while the strength on the surface is around .5 gauss For comparison, the field of a regular bar magnet, is close to 100 gauss!

If you were able to get close to a magnetar, within around 600 miles, the magnetic field would begin to mess with the electrons in your atoms and tear you apart at an atomic level. You wouldn’t feel any of this, of course, because you would already be dead due to the intense radiation and the particles trapped in the field of the magnetar. Pleasant thought, no?

It’s A Starquake!

One of the most frightening features of a magnetar is their ability to have “starquakes” (Think earthquake but on a star). When neutron stars form, there’s a possibility that they will have a crust on the surface, covering all of that decayed matter inside. Occasionally, pieces of these crusts can crack, much like the tectonic plates of Earth. As the crust cracks, a blast of radiation is given off that can be seen across the Milky Way. In a tenth of a second, a starquake from a star around 50,000 light years away put off more energy than the sun does in 100,000 years.

While it’s not likely that we’ll encounter a celestial body like this, they are still scary to think about. We hope these spooky magnetars don’t haunt your dreams, but we do hope you feel informed and educated after reading up on these beautiful but scary heavenly bodies. To stay on top of all things magnet-related, check out the rest of our blog here.