Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Neutron star magnetic fields: not so turbulent?


New findings could help advance understanding of matter at extreme densities

Neutron stars, the extraordinarily dense stellar bodies created when massive stars collapse, are known to host the strongest magnetic fields in the universe -- as much as a billion times more powerful than any man-made electromagnet. But some neutron stars are much more strongly magnetized than others, and this disparity has long puzzled astrophysicists.

Now, a study by McGill University physicists Konstantinos Gourgouliatos and Andrew Cumming sheds new light on the expected geometry of the magnetic field in neutron stars. The findings, published online April 29 in Physical Review Letters, could help scientists measure the mass and radius of these unusual stellar bodies, and thereby gain insights into the physics of matter at extreme densities.

Some previous theoretical studies have suggested that the magnetic field of a neutron star should break into smaller loops and dissipate as the star ages – a phenomenon known as “turbulent cascade.” Yet, there are several “middle-aged” neutron stars (roughly one million to a few million years old) that are known to have relatively strong magnetic fields, leaving scientists at a loss to reconcile the theoretical models with actual observations.

... more about:
»Astrophysique »Neutron »matter »navigate

To better understand how the magnetic field changes as a neutron star ages, Gourgouliatos and Cumming ran a series of computer simulations. These showed the magnetic field evolving rapidly at first, in line with previous predictions. But then the evolution took a surprising turn: in all the simulations, no matter what the magnetic field looked like when the neutron star was born, the field took on a particular structure and its evolution dramatically slowed. 

“A cascade in a magnetic field is akin to what happens when you add cream to your coffee and stir it: the cream rapidly gets broken up into pieces and mixes into the coffee,” Cumming explains. “The original prediction was that neutron star crusts would do the same to their magnetic fields; so if you could walk around on the surface with a compass trying to walk towards magnetic north, you would end up walking around in random directions. Instead, we find in these new simulations that the magnetic field actually remains quite simple in structure – as if the cream refused to mix into the coffee – and you could, indeed, use a compass to navigate around on the surface of the star.”

The McGill researchers call this final magnetic-field configuration the “Hall attractor” state, after the so-called Hall effect, which is thought by astrophysicists to drive magnetic field evolution in neutron-star crusts. “This result is also significant because it shows that the Hall effect, a phenomenon first discovered in terrestrial materials and which is thought to help weaken a magnetic field through turbulence, can actually lead to an attractor state with a stable magnetic-field structure,” Gourgouliatos says.

The research was supported by the Centre de Recherche en Astrophysique du Québec and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

“Hall Attractor in Axially Symmetric Magnetic Fields in Neutron Star Crusts”, Konstantinos N. Gourgouliatos and Andrew Cumming, Physical Review Letters, published 29 April 2014.

Contact Information

Contact: Chris Chipello
Organization: Media Relations Office
Office Phone: 514-398-4201

Chris Chipello | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:

Further reports about: Astrophysique Neutron matter navigate

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>