Quasar vs Magnetar (A Comparison and Other FAQs)

Many strange astronomical bodies riddle the pitch expanse that we call “outer space.”

It burgeons with planets, stars, black holes, asteroids and many others; some of which we have yet to fully understand.

Discoveries come up all the time with the most recent of these being quasars and magnetars.

Quasar vs Magnetar (Summary)

A magnetar is a type of neutron star while a quasar is star-like. They both release immense electromagnetic energy but a magnetar is magnetic whereas a quasar sends out electromagnetic energy via a supermassive black hole. However, it’s important to understand our knowledge of them is still theory.

The reason we know they exist is by their radio and spectroscopy measurements through special instrumentation.

No one has actually seen these in action.

That said, there are many educated guesses and suppositions we can derive from what we know about similar phenomenon on earth.


Quasar is short for quasi-stellar object and it’s a bright celestial object receiving energy from a supermassive black hole.

There are millions of quasars in the universe. The nearest one to earth is 600 million light years away.  

These are so luminous, they’re 100 times brighter than the whole of the Milky Way.

They look like faint star-like points of light, as seen in pictures from the Hubble Telescope.


Quasars are compact objects with a gaseous disc accretion encompassing it, making it millions to tens of billions of solar masses.

This gas directs toward a supermassive black hole, which creates friction and heat.

This then releases tremendous electromagnetic radiation energy, which projects outward.

This emission features an optical spectrum, often shifting toward red.

Scientists term this “redshifted” and it is the standard position for most quasars.

This means that these luminous celestial bodies and their light stretch as they travel to earth under the expanding universe.

Fast-Moving Jets

Also, sometimes there are jets present and move at incredible speeds.

These originate from the central regions of the host galaxy and can be larger than the galaxy it comes from.

Radio lobes emit as a result of the gasses interacting with the gasses of the host galaxy.

Studying Distant Galaxies

Quasars are some of the most distant objects but astronomers are able to study galaxies too far for the human eye with them.

They can record their star-like radio sources by picking up the gases and stars emanating from the quasar’s accretion disc.

Quasar Lifespan

They will last as long as their disc continues to provide fuel and can consume 1,000 to 2,000 solar masses of space material each year.

They can live anywhere from 100,000,000 to 1,000 million years. When they exhaust their fuel, they cease to emit radiation.


A magnetar, or “magnetic star,” is a neutron star with a super strong magnetic field.

It’s 1,000 trillion times more powerful than earth’s magnetic field and 100 to 1,000 times more intense than a radio pulsar.

These emit high-energy electromagnetic radiation via magnetic field decay in bursts of x-rays and gamma rays.

A Type of Neutron Star

Magnetars form like other neutron stars; when a massive star in a supernova explodes resulting in a core collapse.

They are about 12 miles (20 kilometers) around with a mass of 1.4 solar masses.

This means a single magnetar is 10 to 25 times more massive than the sun.

One tablespoon of matter from a magnetar would have a mass well over 100 million tons, with a density 10,000 times more than lead.

If a magnetar were at the same distance to the earth as the moon, it would be devastating and lethal. 

To illustrate, it would strip all data from cassette tapes, credit cards or any other magnetic stripes.

Magnetar Attraction Theories

While we don’t know what creates a magnetar’s powerful attraction, there are several theories.

One is that it could rotate at an incredibly low rate, which makes the magnetic pull immense.

Yet it could be the result of a turbulent and dense conducting fluid appearing before the neutron star settles into its equilibrium.

Or, it could just be the that the collapsed star already had unusually high magnetic fields.

Estimates of Magnetars; Their Activities

There are estimates that place inactive magnetars floating around in the Milky Way at about 30 million, possibly more.

Astronomers guesstimate that one in 10 supernova explosions become magnetars.

The reason why we know they exist is by the use of wavelengths in x-ray light when they produce a thing called “starquakes.”

These trigger powerful gamma ray flares that travel at the speed of light.

The earth receives these waves in a mere matter of seconds.

Indeed, scientists have recorded three so far in 1979, 1998 and 2004 and positively identified at least 24 active magnetars.

The furthest is about 163,000 light years away and the closest is around 9,000 light years away.

Comparing and Contrasting Quasars and Magnetars

Due to the distant and elusive nature of both magnetars and quasars, much of what we know is pure conjecture and speculation.

So, comparing the two in how they’re the same yet different will basically come from what we know of their activity in space.

Quasars are clearly much older, sending their electromagnetic impulses from hundreds of millions of light years away.

Even though magnetars are also thousands of light years away, we can pick up their x-ray or gamma ray signatures only seconds after they occur.

Another obvious factor in their activities is that quasars emit powerful electromagnetic energy, but it wouldn’t affect us on earth like a magnetar would.

This is because of how strong the magnetic pull is of a magnetar, which is an actual star.

Quasars have star-like characteristics but emanate either to or from a supermassive black hole.


Quasars and magnetars are distinct celestial objects requiring more study.

Magnetars are powerful magnetic neutron stars.

Quasars are star-like objects working in tandem with supermassive black holes and are possibly much older than magnetars.

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Quasar vs Magnetar

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