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Formation of very strongly magnetized neutron stars - Implications for gamma-ray bursts
Duncan, Robert C.; Thompson, Christopher
AA(Texas, University; McDonald Observatory, Austin), AB(Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, Toronto, Canada)
Astrophysical Journal, Part 2 - Letters (ISSN 0004-637X), vol. 392, no. 1, June 10, 1992, p. L9-L13. Research supported by NSERC. (ApJL Homepage)
Publication Date:
NASA/STI Keywords:
Dynamo Theory, Gamma Ray Bursts, Neutron Stars, Star Formation, Stellar Magnetic Fields, Gravitational Collapse, Stellar Rotation, Supernovae
Bibliographic Code:


Neutron stars with unusually strong magnetic dipole fields B_dipole ~ 10^14 - 10^15 G, can form when conditions for efficient helical dynamo action are met during the first few seconds after gravitational collapse. Such high-field neutron stars, "magnetars," initially rotate with short periods ~ 1 ms, but quickly lose most of their rotational energy via magnetic braking, giving a large energy boost to the associated supernova explosion. Several mechanisms unique to magnetars can plausibly generate large (~ 1000 km/s) recoil velocities. These include anisotropic neutrino emission, core rotational instability and fragmentation, and/or anisotropic magnetic winds.

Magnetars are relatively difficult to detect because they drop below the radio death line faster than ordinary pulsars, and because they probably do not remain bound in binary systems. We conjecture that their main observational signature is gamma-ray bursts powered by their vast reservoirs of magnetic energy. If they acquire large recoils, most magnetars are unbound from the Galaxy or reside in an extended, weakly bound Galactic corona. There is evidence that the soft gamma repeaters are young magnetars.

Finally, we note that a convective dynamo can also generate a very strong dipole field after the merger of a neutron star binary, but only if the merged star survives for as long as ~ 10-100 ms.

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