September 2011 — Artist’s impression of the magnetar in the extraordinary star cluster Westerlund 1

This artist’s impression shows the magnetar in the very rich and young star cluster Westerlund 1. This remarkable cluster contains hundreds of very massive stars, some shining with a brilliance of almost one million Suns. European astronomers have, for the first time, demonstrated that this magnetar — an unusual type of neutron star with an extremely strong magnetic field — was formed from a star with at least 40 times as much mass as the Sun. The result presents great challenges to current theories of how stars evolve, as a star as massive as this was expected to become a black hole, not a magnetar.

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ESO/L. Calçada

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