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10th of April 2024
Headline of the article in The Conversation, describing observations of a magnetar.
Conversation article on the magnetar XTE J1810-197
by Lower et al.
Magnetars are young neutron stars, with magnetic fields billions of times stronger than our most powerful Earth-based magnets. The slow decay of their magnetic fields creates an enormous amount of stress in their hard outer crust until it eventually fractures. This twists the magnetic field and releases large amounts of energetic X-rays and gamma rays as it unwinds. After a decade of silence, the magnetar XTE J1810-197 suddenly burst back to life in late 2018. In an article in The Conversation, Marcus Lower and colleagues describe how observations with Murriyang, the Parkes radiotelescope, revealed that the normally linearly polarised radio waves were being converted into circularly polarised waves. This "linear-to-circular conversion" had long been predicted to occur when radio waves travel through the super-heated soup of particles that resides in neutron star magnetic fields. However, theoretical predictions for how the effect should change with observing frequency do not yet match the observations all that well. This is motivating researchers to devise more complex ideas of how radio waves escape from their magnetic fields. (Image credit: Carl Knox, OzGrav/Swinburne University of Technology; The Conversation)

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