As if Wall Street's Magnetar wasn't bad enough, spewing toxic waste at all and sundry in the run-up to the Great Financial Crisis.* Now we have this.
Three giant gamma-ray flares have been detected in the last 40 years. A new paper on magnetars cracking themselves open could explain why.
Three times in the last 40 years, giant gamma-ray flares have bombarded our corner of space. These giant flares aren't dangerous, and last just about one-tenth of a second. But they're wildly out of proportion to the usual gamma-ray beams bouncing around the universe. Since the first of the three flares was detected on March 5, 1979, astronomers have narrowed down the source of these unusual events: tiny magnetars, lashing out with enormous energy after some unknown cataclysmic event.
And now astrophysicists have a new theory as to what those cataclysmic events are.
Magnetars are a type of neutron star — superdense objects that can outweigh our sun, but are roughly the size of Staten Island. All neutron stars have intense magnetic fields, but, as Live Science has previously reported, some are magnetic outliers — wrapped in magnetic field lines powerful enough to distort their behavior. In a new paper, released as a draft online Aug. 2 in the preprint journal arXiv, a team of Spanish astronomers argue that instabilities in magnetic fields could briefly crack a magnetar open — causing it to bare the intense energies in its guts. (The study has not yet been peer-reviewed.)
To reach that conclusion, the physicists studied the equations governing the twisted magnetic fields around magnetars. Most of the time, those fields are fairly stable. But there's a "branch" of solutions to the equations governing the magnetic fields in which the solutions are unstable. And those instabilities are catastrophic....MORE
*This was the series for which Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein were awarded their Pulitzer.
Magnetar created $30 billion in mortgage backed securities many of which completely fell apart. In addition they would create instruments specifically so they could bet against them. Goldman was fined $154 million for neglecting to inform GS customers that Magnetar a) designed one particular product, b) chose the paper that went into it and c) was betting against it.
The Magnetar Trade: How One Hedge Fund Helped Keep the Bubble Going