Supermassive binary black hole hunter: SKA pulsar timing array

Recently, researchers from the National Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences quantified the potential of gravitational wave detection in the era of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA). The study was published ...

Future space travelers may follow cosmic lighthouses

For centuries, lighthouses helped sailors navigate safely into harbor. Their lights swept across the water, cutting through fog and darkness, guiding mariners around dangerous obstacles and keeping them on the right path. ...

Why pulsars shine bright: A half-century-old mystery solved

When Jocelyn Bell first observed the emissions of a pulsar in 1967, the rhythmic pulses of radio waves so confounded astronomers that they considered whether the light could be signals sent by an alien civilization.

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Pulsars are highly magnetized, rotating neutron stars that emit a beam of electromagnetic radiation. The observed periods of their pulses range from 1.4 milliseconds to 8.5 seconds. The radiation can only be observed when the beam of emission is pointing towards the Earth. This is called the lighthouse effect and gives rise to the pulsed nature that gives pulsars their name. Because neutron stars are very dense objects, the rotation period and thus the interval between observed pulses are very regular. For some pulsars, the regularity of pulsation is as precise as an atomic clock. Pulsars are known to have planets orbiting them, as in the case of PSR B1257+12. Werner Becker of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics said in 2006, "The theory of how pulsars emit their radiation is still in its infancy, even after nearly forty years of work."

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