Thursday, May 15, 2014

Artist’s Impression of the Magnetar in the Star Cluster Westerlund 1

This artist’s impression shows the magnetar in the very rich and young star cluster Westerlund 1. This remarkable cluster contains hundreds of very massive stars, some shining with a brilliance of almost one million suns. European astronomers have for the first time demonstrated that this magnetar — an unusual type of neutron star with an extremely strong magnetic field — probably was formed as part of a binary star system. The discovery of the magnetar’s former companion elsewhere in the cluster helps solve the mystery of how a star that started off so massive could become a magnetar, rather than collapse into a black hole.

Illustration credit: ESO/L. Calçada

Note: For more information, see Magnetar Formation Mystery Solved?

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