Astronomers discover fastest-spinning pulsar

Jan 12, 2006
pulsar

A team of astronomers led by McGill University graduate student Jason Hessels has discovered the fastest-spinning neutron star, or pulsar, ever found. The 20-mile-diameter superdense pulsar, which at 716 revolutions per second whirls twice as fast as the average kitchen blender, exceeds the previous record by nearly 100 revolutions per second.

The team, which also included Vicky Kaspi, McGill University physics professor and Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics, made the discovery using the National Science Foundation's Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia. Their work yields important new information about the nature of one of the most mysterious forms of matter in the universe.

Hessels, 26, is first author on the pulsar research, which will be published online by the journal Science on January 12. The Edmonton, Alberta, native underscored the value of the discovery to the ongoing exploration of neutron stars. "We believe that the matter in neutron stars is denser than an atomic nucleus, but it is unclear by how much," he said. "Our observations of such a rapidly rotating star set a hard upper limit on its size, and hence on how dense the star can be." Hessels and his colleagues presented their findings to the American Astronomical Society's meeting in Washington, DC.

Pulsars are spinning neutron stars (what remains when a huge star explodes as a supernova before dying) that sling "lighthouse beams" of radio waves or light out as they spin. Their material is compressed to densities so extreme that a teaspoon of neutron star matter is thought to weigh billions of tons. British radio astronomers discovered pulsars in 1967, a breakthrough that earned one of them the Nobel Prize. But the method by which pulsars produce their powerful beams of electromagnetic radiation has remained a mystery.

The scientists discovered the pulsar, named PSR J1748-2446ad, in a cluster of stars called Terzan 5, located some 28,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius. The newly discovered pulsar is spinning 716 times per second, or 716 Hertz (Hz), readily beating the previous record of 642 Hz from a pulsar discovered in 1982.

Source: McGill University

Explore further: Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Triple millisecond pulsar laboratory challenges theory

Jan 06, 2014

(Phys.org) —Millisecond pulsars are old neutron stars, which rotate several hundred times per second. They are often found in binary systems and their existence can be explained by mass transfer from a ...

Recommended for you

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

1 hour ago

(Phys.org) —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...

Let's put a sailboat on Titan

4 hours ago

The large moons orbiting the gas giants in our solar system have been getting increasing attention in recent years. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only natural satellite known to house a thick atmosphere. ...

Image: Rosetta's Philae lander snaps a selfie

5 hours ago

Philae is awake… and taking pictures! This image, acquired last night with the lander's CIVA (Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analyzer) instrument, shows the left and right solar panels of ESA's well-traveled ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

(Phys.org) —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...

Let's put a sailboat on Titan

The large moons orbiting the gas giants in our solar system have been getting increasing attention in recent years. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only natural satellite known to house a thick atmosphere. ...

How kids' brain structures grow as memory develops

Our ability to store memories improves during childhood, associated with structural changes in the hippocampus and its connections with prefrontal and parietal cortices. New research from UC Davis is exploring ...

Gate for bacterial toxins found

Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus Aktories and Dr. Panagiotis Papatheodorou from the Institute of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology of the University of Freiburg have discovered the receptor responsible ...