Thursday, October 25, 2018

Astronomers Discover Slowest Ever Pulsar Star

   A team of astronomers including a PhD student from the University of Manchester has discovered the slowest-spinning pulsar star to date. This study was made possible through observations using the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) in the Netherlands.
   The product of a supernova, pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron stars that produce electromagnetic radiation at specific frequencies. Located in the constellation Cassiopeia approximately 5,200 light-years away from Earth, this pulsar spins at a rate of once every 23.5 seconds. This contrasts with the previously slowest pulsar which had emitted radio waves every 8.5 seconds.
   Unlike previous discoveries, this pulsar also releases radio emissions that last only 200 milliseconds per rotation. That meant that if the timing had been off even a few milliseconds, the radio beams might have missed Earth entirely making this discovery impossible.
   “The radio emission that comes from a pulsar acts like a cosmic lighthouse and you can only see the signal if the radio beam is facing towards you," said Chia Min Tan from Manchester's School of Physics and Astronomy. "In this case the beam is so narrow that it might easily have missed the Earth.   “Slow-spinning pulsars are even harder to detect. It is incredible to think that this pulsar spins more than 15000 times more slowly than the fastest spinning pulsar known. We hope that there are more to be found with LOFAR”.

Image Credit: Danielle Futselaar and ASTRON

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