Artist’s impression of the active magnetar Swift J1818.0-1607. Image by Carl Knox, OzGrav
Original Published Date: 
Thursday, February 4, 2021

Full article issued by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery.

Astronomers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) and CSIRO, led by OzGrav PhD student, Marcus Lower, have just observed bizarre, never-seen-before behaviour from a ‘radio-loud’ magnetar – a rare type of neutron star and one of the strongest magnets in the Universe.
 
Their new findings suggest magnetars have more complex magnetic fields than previously thought – which may challenge theories of how they are born and evolve over time.
 
Magnetars are a rare type of rotating neutron star with some of the most powerful magnetic fields in the Universe. Astronomers have detected only thirty of these objects in and around the Milky Way – most of them detected by X-ray telescopes following a high-energy outburst.
 
However, a handful of these magnetars have also been seen to emit radio pulses similar to pulsars – the less magnetic cousins of magnetars that produce beams of radio waves from their magnetic poles. Tracking how the pulses from these ‘radio-loud’ magnetars change over time offers a unique window into their evolution and geometry.

Photo credit: 

Artist’s impression of the active magnetar Swift J1818.0-1607. Image by Carl Knox, OzGrav.