Scientists discover second-fastest-spinning millisecond pulsar

BY LAUREL KORNFELD | PUBLISHED: 09-06-2017

Designated PSR-J0952-0607 or simply J0952, the pulsar is about 1.4 times as massive as the Sun and has a binary companion star of approximately 20 Jupiter masses orbiting it every 6.4 hours.

Using a radio telescope consisting of thousands of antennas linked together, scientists have discovered the second-fastest ever spinning pulsar, a stellar remnant created by the death of the object's precursor star in a supernova explosion.

Also known as neutron stars, pulsars are are tiny but massive magnetized objects that emit radio waves, visible light, X-rays, and gamma rays as they rotate.
Scientists can study the pulses these objects emit only if the beams of light sweep across the Earth. Pulsars' magnetic poles do not align with their rotational axes, resulting in their light beams sweeping around like a lighthouse beacon.

After NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected unusual high-energy emissions from deep space, scientists used the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) radio telescope to find the source of the energy, which they found to be a rapidly spinning or millisecond pulsar in the constellation Sextans somewhere between 3,200 and 5,700 light years away.

Designated PSR-J0952-0607 or simply J0952, the pulsar is about 1.4 times as massive as the Sun and has a binary companion star of approximately 20 Jupiter masses orbiting it every 6.4 hours.

It is devouring the companion star, sucking matter from it and absorbing that matter, in the process increasing its spin rate, now 707 rotations each second or 42,000 per minute.

Binary systems in which stellar remnants devour each other's matter are also known as black widow or redback pulsars.

The fastest-spinning known pulsar, PSR J1748-2446ad, spins at 43,000 rotations per minute. Scientists believe a pulsar can spin as fast as 72,000 rotations per minute before being destroyed.

LOFAR may be a useful tool for astronomers seeking to discover pulsars with extremely rapid spins.

"There is growing evidence that the fastest-spinning pulsars tend to have the steepest spectra," noted Ziggy Pleunis of McGill University in Montreal, a member of the research team and co-author of a paper on the findings published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"Since LOFAR searches are more sensitive to these steep-spectrum radio pulsars, we may find that even faster pulsars do, in fact, exist and have been missed by surveys at higher frequencies," he said.

 

 

 

Comments
Laurel Kornfeld - 5 hours ago
Designated PSR-J0952-0607 or simply J0952, the pulsar is about 1.4 times as massive as the Sun and has a binary companion star of approximately 20 Jupiter masses orbiting it every 6.4 hours.
Laurel Kornfeld - 5 hours ago
Designated PSR-J0952-0607 or simply J0952, the pulsar is about 1.4 times as massive as the Sun and has a binary companion star of approximately 20 Jupiter masses orbiting it every 6.4 hours.
Chad Young - 5 hours ago
Designated PSR-J0952-0607 or simply J0952, the pulsar is about 1.4 times as massive as the Sun and has a binary companion star of approximately 20 Jupiter masses orbiting it every 6.4 hours.
Chad Young - 6 hours ago
Designated PSR-J0952-0607 or simply J0952, the pulsar is about 1.4 times as massive as the Sun and has a binary companion star of approximately 20 Jupiter masses orbiting it every 6.4 hours.
Vicky Webb - 6 hours ago
Designated PSR-J0952-0607 or simply J0952, the pulsar is about 1.4 times as massive as the Sun and has a binary companion star of approximately 20 Jupiter masses orbiting it every 6.4 hours.
Paul Pate - 6 hours ago
Designated PSR-J0952-0607 or simply J0952, the pulsar is about 1.4 times as massive as the Sun and has a binary companion star of approximately 20 Jupiter masses orbiting it every 6.4 hours.
Laurel Kornfeld - 6 hours ago
Designated PSR-J0952-0607 or simply J0952, the pulsar is about 1.4 times as massive as the Sun and has a binary companion star of approximately 20 Jupiter masses orbiting it every 6.4 hours.