SUMMARY: Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have found evidence that the big stars become extremely powerful magnets when they die. They used the Australia Telescope Compact Array and Parkes radio telescope in eastern Australia to watch a powerful magnetar - an exotic neutron star with a magnetic field one quadrillion times more powerful than the Earth's field, which releases X-rays and gamma radiation. They found clues in the surrounding nebula that indicate that the magnetar used to be a star with 30-40 times the mass of the Sun. Larger stars spin faster when they become neutron stars (500-1000 times a second), and this generates a powerful dynamo that boosts the magnetic field.
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