neutron stars, magnetars are around 20 kilometres (12 mi) in diameter and have a mass 2–3 times that of the
Sun. The density of the interior of a magnetar is such that a tablespoon of its substance would have a mass of over 100 million tons.
 Magnetars are differentiated from other neutron stars by having even stronger magnetic fields, and rotating comparatively quicker, with most neutron stars completing a rotation once every one to ten seconds,
 compared to less than one second for a magnetar. This magnetic field gives rise to very strong and characteristic bursts of X-rays and gamma rays. The active life of a magnetar is short. Their strong magnetic fields decay after about 10,000 years, after which activity and strong X-ray emission cease. Given the number of magnetars observable today, one estimate puts the number of inactive magnetars in the
Milky Way at 30 million or more.
Starquakes triggered on the surface of the magnetar disturb the magnetic field which encompasses it, often leading to extremely powerful
gamma ray flare emissions which have been recorded on Earth in 1979, 1998, and 2004.
Magnetars are characterized by their extremely powerful magnetic fields of 108 to 1011
 These magnetic fields are hundreds of millions of times stronger than any man-made magnet,
 and quadrillions of times more powerful than
the field surrounding Earth.
 Earth has a
geomagnetic field of 30–60 microteslas, and a
neodymium-based, rare-earth magnet has a field of about 1.25 tesla, with a magnetic energy density of 4.0×105 J/m3. A magnetar's 1010 tesla field, by contrast, has an energy density of 4.0×1025 J/m3, with an
E/c2 mass density more than 10,000 times that of
lead. The magnetic field of a magnetar would be lethal even at a distance of 1000 km due to the strong magnetic field distorting the electron clouds of the subject's constituent atoms, rendering the chemistry of life impossible.
 At a distance of halfway from Earth to the moon, a magnetar could strip information from the magnetic stripes of all
credit cards on Earth.
 As of 2010 , they are the most powerful magnetic objects detected throughout the universe.
As described in the February 2003
Scientific American cover story, remarkable things happen within a magnetic field of magnetar strength. "
photons readily split in two or merge together. The vacuum itself is polarized, becoming strongly
birefringent, like a
Atoms are deformed into long cylinders thinner than the quantum-relativistic
de Broglie wavelength of an electron."
 In a field of about 105 teslas
atomic orbitals deform into rod shapes. At 1010 teslas, a
hydrogen atom becomes a spindle 200 times narrower than its normal diameter.
Origins of magnetic fields
The strong fields of magnetars are understood as resulting from a
magnetohydrodynamic dynamo process in the turbulent, extremely dense conducting fluid that exists before the neutron star settles into its equilibrium configuration. These fields then persist due to persistent currents in a proton-superconductor phase of matter that exists at an intermediate depth within the neutron star (where neutrons predominate by mass). A similar magnetohydrodynamic dynamo process produces even more intense transient fields during coalescence of pairs of neutron stars.
Magnetar SGR 1900+14 is in the exact center of the image, which shows a surrounding ring of gas seven light-years across in infrared light, as seen by the
Spitzer Space Telescope
. The magnetar itself is not visible at this wavelength, but it has been seen in X-ray light.
When in a
supernova, a star collapses to a neutron star, its magnetic field increasing dramatically in strength. Halving a linear dimension increases the magnetic field fourfold. Duncan and Thompson calculated that when the spin, temperature and magnetic field of a newly formed neutron star falls into the right ranges, a
dynamo mechanism could act, converting heat and rotational energy into magnetic energy and increasing the magnetic field, normally an already enormous 108
teslas, to more than 1011 teslas (or 1015
gauss). The result is a magnetar.
 It is estimated that about one in ten supernova explosions results in a magnetar rather than a more standard neutron star or
On March 5, 1979, a few months after the successful dropping of satellites into the atmosphere of
Venus, the two unmanned Soviet spaceprobes,
Venera 11 and
12, that were then drifting through the
Solar System were hit by a blast of gamma radiation at approximately 10:51 EST. This contact raised the radiation readings on both the probes from a normal 100 counts per second to over 200,000 counts a second, in only a fraction of a millisecond.
This burst of gamma rays quickly continued to spread. Eleven seconds later,
Helios 2, a
NASA probe, which was in orbit around the
Sun, was saturated by the blast of radiation. It soon hit Venus, and the
Pioneer Venus Orbiter's detectors were overcome by the wave. Seconds later, Earth received the wave of radiation, where the powerful output of gamma rays inundated the detectors of three
U.S. Department of Defense
Vela satellites, the
Soviet Prognoz 7 satellite, and the
Einstein Observatory. Just before the wave exited the Solar System, the blast also hit the
International Sun–Earth Explorer. This extremely powerful blast of gamma radiation constituted the strongest wave of extra-solar gamma rays ever detected; it was over 100 times more intense than any known previous extra-solar burst. Because gamma rays travel at the speed of light and the time of the pulse was recorded by several distant spacecraft as well as on Earth, the source of the
gamma radiation could be calculated to an accuracy of about 2
 The direction of the source corresponded with the remnants of a star that had
gone supernova around 3000 B.C.E.
 It was in the
Large Magellanic Cloud and the source was named
SGR 0525-66, the event itself was named
GRB 790305b, the first observed SGR megaflare.
Artist's impression of a gamma-ray burst and supernova powered by a magnetar.
On February 21, 2008 it was announced that NASA and researchers at
McGill University had discovered a neutron star with the properties of a radio pulsar which emitted some magnetically powered bursts, like a magnetar. This suggests that magnetars are not merely a rare type of
pulsar but may be a (possibly reversible) phase in the lives of some pulsars.
 On September 24, 2008,
ESO announced what it ascertained was the first optically active magnetar-candidate yet discovered, using ESO's
Very Large Telescope. The newly discovered object was designated SWIFT J195509+261406.
 On September 1, 2014,
ESA released news of a magnetar close to supernova remnant
Kesteven 79. Astronomers from Europe and China discovered this magnetar, named 3XMM J185246.6+003317, in 2013 by looking at images that had been taken in 2008 and 2009.
 In 2013, a magnetar
PSR J1745-2900 was discovered, which orbits the black hole in the
Sagittarius A* system. This object provides a valuable tool for studying the ionized
interstellar medium toward the