This is from man ssh:
I cant remember, but isnt it either a 128 bit or a 512 bit alphanumeric key?
ssh supports RSA based authentication.
The scheme is based on public-key cryptography: there are cryptosystems
where encryption and decryption are done using separate keys, and it is
not possible to derive the decryption key from the encryption key. RSA
is one such system. The idea is that each user creates a public/private
key pair for authentication purposes. The server knows the public key,
and only the user knows the private key. The file
$HOME/.ssh/authorized_keys lists the public keys that are permitted for
logging in. When the user logs in, the ssh program tells the server
which key pair it would like to use for authentication. The server
checks if this key is permitted, and if so, sends the user (actually the
ssh program running on behalf of the user) a challenge, a random number,
encrypted by the user's public key. The challenge can only be decrypted
using the proper private key. The user's client then decrypts the chal-
lenge using the private key, proving that he/she knows the private key
but without disclosing it to the server.