Physics in Strong Magnetic Fields Near Neutron Stars

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Science  01 Mar 1991:
Vol. 251, Issue 4997, pp. 1033-1038
DOI: 10.1126/science.251.4997.1033


Electromagnetic phenomena occurring in the strong magnetic fields of neutron stars are currently of great interest in high-energy astrophysics. Observations of rotation rate changes and cyclotron lines in pulsars and γ-ray bursts indicate that surface magnetic fields of neutron stars often exceed 1012 gauss. In fields this strong, where electrons behave much as if they were in bound atomic states, familiar processes undergo profound changes, and exotic processes become important. Strong magnetic fields affect the physics in several fundamental ways: Energies perpendicular to the field are quantized, transverse momentum is not conserved, and electron-positron spin is important. Neutron stars therefore provide a unique laboratory for the study of physics in extremely high fields that cannot be generated on Earth.

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