Astronomers have discovered a wierd new kind of extraordinarily magnetic star

An artist’s impression of HD 45166, an unusually magnetic star, exhibiting how intense winds of particles blowing away from the star are trapped by the magnetic subject

ESO/L. Calcada

A brand new kind of star could be the answer to a cosmic thriller. After a century of research, astronomers have lastly labored out why a star known as HD 45166 seems to be so unusual, and it might be the important thing to understanding the place curious stars known as magnetars come from.

HD 45166 is positioned in a binary system about 3000 gentle years away and is a kind of object known as a Wolf-Rayet star, often known as a helium star as a result of it has blown away its outer layers of hydrogen to disclose the underlying helium. But it surely has by no means regarded fairly like some other Wolf-Rayet star now we have ever seen. “This star was identified to be bizarre for about 100 years,” says Tomer Shenar on the College of Amsterdam within the Netherlands. “It didn’t make any sense – it actually contradicted theories, so it deserved extra scrutiny.”

Shenar and his colleagues have now made a sequence of latest observations of the star, digging into the spectrum of its gentle to study extra about the way it works. They discovered that it has a very highly effective magnetic subject, stronger than that of some other star of its dimension that has been measured.

The outflows of fabric that make HD 45166 look so unusual are in all probability truly trapped in its magnetic subject, not flowing away like in regular Wolf-Rayet stars. “What you’d see up shut is usually materials trapped in arcs going between the poles of the star and colliding within the center,” says Shenar. “You’d see this thick ball of fuel, and typically piercing via this you’d see the precise star.”

These highly effective fields imply that when this star collapses in on itself in a couple of million years, it’s going to probably turn out to be a magnetar, that are neutron stars with the strongest magnetic fields within the universe. About 10 per cent of neutron stars are magnetars, however how precisely they kind has been a thriller for many years. If stars like HD 45166 do ultimately flip into magnetars, that thriller is lastly solved.

The subsequent step for Shenar and his workforce is twofold: by persevering with to watch the binary system for a couple of extra years, they may get a greater deal with on the star’s properties and therefore its eventual destiny. Additionally they plan to seek for extra of those magnetised helium stars – their calculations point out that there must be a whole lot in our galaxy. If they’ll discover extra at completely different phases of stellar evolution, they might lastly have the ability to nail down how magnetars actually kind.


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