Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Neutron star magnetic fields: not so turbulent?

07.05.2014

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.
http://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.171101

Contact Information

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

Chris Chipello | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/channels/news/neutron-star-magnetic-fields-not-so-turbulent-236547

Further reports about: Astrophysique Neutron matter navigate

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Russian physicists create a high-precision 'quantum ruler'
24.06.2016 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

nachricht Hubble confirms new dark spot on Neptune
24.06.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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: First experimental quantum simulation of particle physics phenomena

Physicists in Innsbruck have realized the first quantum simulation of lattice gauge theories, building a bridge between high-energy theory and atomic physics. In the journal Nature, Rainer Blatt‘s and Peter Zoller’s research teams describe how they simulated the creation of elementary particle pairs out of the vacuum by using a quantum computer.

Elementary particles are the fundamental buildings blocks of matter, and their properties are described by the Standard Model of particle physics. The...

Im Focus: Is There Life On Mars?

Survivalist back from Space - 18 months on the outer skin of the ISS

A year and a half on the outer wall of the International Space Station ISS in altitude of 400 kilometers is a real challenge. Whether a primordial bacterium...

Im Focus: CWRU physicists deploy magnetic vortex to control electron spin

Potential technology for quantum computing, keener sensors

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have developed a way to swiftly and precisely control electron spins at room temperature.

Im Focus: Physicists measured something new in the radioactive decay of neutrons

The experiment inspired theorists; future ones could reveal new physics

A physics experiment performed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has enhanced scientists' understanding of how free neutrons decay...

Im Focus: Discovery of gold nanocluster 'double' hints at other shape changing particles

New analysis approach brings two unique atomic structures into focus

Chemically the same, graphite and diamonds are as physically distinct as two minerals can be, one opaque and soft, the other translucent and hard. What makes...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ERES 2016: The largest conference in the European real estate industry

09.06.2016 | Event News

Networking 4.0: International Laser Technology Congress AKL’16 Shows New Ways of Cooperations

24.05.2016 | Event News

Challenges of rural labor markets

20.05.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nanoscientists develop the 'ultimate discovery tool'

24.06.2016 | Materials Sciences

Russian physicists create a high-precision 'quantum ruler'

24.06.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Hubble confirms new dark spot on Neptune

24.06.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>