Monday, June 20, 2022

Big Magnet

"Behold the Magnetar, nature's ultimate superweapon". (Via H.R.)

A typical magnetar has a surface magnetic field strength of 1014 to 1015 Gauss, with interior strengths 10 times stronger.

That is not a typo. Magnetars have magnetic fields about a quadrillion times stronger than the Earth's and a billion times stronger than the best that humanity can achieve.

If you get within approximately 1,000 kilometers of a magnetar, you die. Instantly. Leaving aside the copious amount of X-ray radiation constantly pouring out of these objects (we'll get to that), the magnetic fields make life literally impossible. The problem is that atoms are made of positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons. In weak magnetic fields, this doesn't make a bit of difference. But in strong fields, the electrons and protons respond differently. Atoms lose their traditional shape, and the electron orbitals become elongated along the direction of the magnetic field lines.

If you somehow made it to the surface of a magnetar, your individual atoms would only be 1 percent as wide as they are long. With atoms turning into needles, atomic physics as we know it breaks down. As does all the bonds that atoms use to glue themselves together into complex molecules.

In other words, the static magnetic field of a magnetar is strong enough to simply... dissociate you. All the molecules that you're made of simply come apart into oddly shaped atoms.