, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 225-287
Date: 08 Jul 2008

The strongest cosmic magnets: soft gamma-ray repeaters and anomalous X-ray pulsars

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Two classes of X-ray pulsars, the anomalous X-ray pulsars and the soft gamma-ray repeaters, have been recognized in the last decade as the most promising candidates for being magnetars: isolated neutron stars powered by magnetic energy. I review the observational properties of these objects, focussing on the most recent results, and their interpretation in the magnetar model. Alternative explanations, in particular those based on accretion from residual disks, are also considered. The possible relations between these sources and other classes of neutron stars and astrophysical objects are also discussed.