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(Original report by Matthew Francis at Arstechnica.com…)

"Bonds between atoms are electrical in character: atoms share electrons or mutually ionize, creating an attractive force binding them together. However, researchers are now suggesting that it may be possible to generate magnetic bonds, resulting in stable molecules of different types than exist on Earth. While these molecules can't be produced with even our strongest laboratory magnets, they could form in the extreme magnetic fields near white dwarfs and neutron stars, and their unique spectral signatures may make them visible through observations.

As described in a new Science paper, Kai K. Lange, E. I. Tellgren, M. R. Hoffmann, and T. Helgaker performed detailed quantum mechanical calculations for two atoms in exceedingly strong magnetic fields. While previous work had shown that a relatively weak bond could form when the molecule is parallel to the magnetic field, Lange and colleagues discovered an additional stronger bond might result when the molecule is perpendicular. Their calculation relied on very few assumptions, so it is useful for determining the properties of the molecules formed. Intriguingly, their model also described a magnetic molecule could be made from helium, which is famously inert and doesn't form stable electric bonds…"


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