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Melvin’s ‘magnetic universe’, the role of the magnetic tension and the implications for gravitational collapse
Classical and Quantum Gravity  (IF3.528),  Pub Date : 2021-09-09, DOI: 10.1088/1361-6382/ac1b48
Christos G Tsagas, Panagiotis Mavrogiannis

Electromagnetism appears to have the potential to alter the fate of relativistic gravitational implosion. Coulomb forces, for example, can in principle prevent the ultimate collapse of charged matter to a singularity. Also, half a century ago, Melvin noted that magnetic forcelines do not collapse under their own gravity, no matter how strong the latter may be. Instead, magnetic fields seemed capable of stabilising themselves against gravitational self-contraction. Intrigued, Melvin wondered whether magnetism could also support against the realistic collapse of charged matter. Here, we look back into these issues by means of two complementary scenarios. The first reconsiders Melvin’s highly idealised ‘magnetic universe’ and reaches the same conclusion, namely that magnetic fields do not self-gravitate. The second is a realistic collapse scenario, like that of magnetised massive compact stars. Looking for answers to Melvin’s question, we find that magnetic fields do show a generic tendency to support against relativistic gravitational implosion. The magnetic effect in question involves the curvature of the host space, it grows stronger as the collapse progresses and the triggering agent is the field’s tension. In other words, the reason is the elasticity of the field lines and their inherent tendency to react against anything that distorts them from equilibrium. In this case, the distorting agent is the ever increasing curvature of the collapsing host space.