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Magnetars may fuel briefer bursts

Rapidly spinning neutron stars could be source of some short gamma-ray explosions, astronomers propose

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4:26pm, November 3, 2010

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — It takes a powerful beast to unleash a gamma-ray burst, the most energetic type of explosion since the Big Bang. But the exact nature of the cosmic powerhouse that generates the various kinds of bursts has been a matter of debate for nearly 20 years.

A new finding reported November 3 at the Gamma Ray Burst 2010 meeting suggests that rapidly spinning magnetars, which have the strongest known magnetic fields in the universe, may be the driving force behind a larger population of gamma-ray bursts than scientists had thought.

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