Thursday, July 7, 2022

Astronomers have discovered the brightest cosmic pulsar yet beyond the Milky Way

HomespaceAstronomers have discovered the brightest cosmic pulsar yet beyond the Milky Way

PSR J0523-7125 is ten times brighter than any other known radio pulsar beyond the Milky Way.

According to a new research, a newly discovered pulsar is more than ten times brighter than any other fast revolving star we know of.

Pulsars are fast rotating neutron stars or dense cores of supernova remnant material that generate radio pulses at regular intervals. PSR J0523-7125, the recently found pulsar, is likewise relatively close in galactic terms. It is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a Milky Way satellite galaxy around 160,000 light-years from Earth.

“This was surprising and intriguing, because there was no known pulsar or dwarf star at this point,” the study’s authors stated in a “We reasoned that the object had to be something novel. To answer the puzzle, we viewed it with a variety of telescopes at various wavelengths. Both the statement and the research were headed by Yuanming Wang, a doctorate student at the University of Sydney in Australia.

Although scientists have found over 3,300 radio pulsars since the 1960s, barely 1% of them have been detected outside the galaxy. Furthermore, many of the findings have come from a single radio telescope: Australia’s Parkes Observatory, which is run by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization of the Australian government (CSIRO). (This telescope is also known for receiving video of Apollo 11’s moonwalk.)

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PSR J0523-7125 had avoided discovery because its beam was larger than typical, making it difficult to identify even though at least 30 pulsars are known of beyond our galaxy, chiefly in the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds in its approximate area of the sky.

The authors identified it, however, by employing polarisation data. Polarization refers to how light’s electromagnetic waves spin in a circular manner as the waves move across space. These signals, albeit rare, may come from pulsars and other objects with powerful magnetic fields.

The Large Magellanic Cloud, where the pulsar was found

Because human eyes cannot detect polarised light, the authors went to the Australia Telescope National Facility of the CSIRO (ASKAP). According to the authors, the observatory “has the equivalent of polarised eyewear that can distinguish circularly polarised events.”

According to them, this is when the new pulsar appeared. “An undergraduate student observed a circular polarised object towards the centre of the Large Magellanic Cloud while looking at data from our ASKAP Variables and Slow Transients (VAST) survey,” the research authors said. “Moreover, throughout the course of several months, the brightness of this item changed: another highly remarkable quality that distinguished it.”

The Parkes Observatory, the space-based Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory (in X-ray wavelengths), and the Gemini telescope in Chile were used to confirm the discovery (in infrared wavelengths). After none of these observatories detected the object, the researchers resorted to MeerKAT, a South African radio telescope that recently began operations.

They won the jackpot this time. “Observations with MeerKAT confirmed the source is actually a new pulsar, PSR J0523-7125, whirling at a rate of around three revolutions per second,” the scientists wrote.

Pulsar PSR J0523-7125 visible in MeerKAT imagery.

They added that combining MeerKAT and ASKAP capabilities may result in more pulsar discoveries, and that the Square Kilometer Array, the world’s biggest radio telescope, should also be beneficial once it is fully finished.

“We’ll need to locate more of them before we can completely explain pulsars within the context of contemporary physics,” the authors added. “This finding is merely the beginning.”

The Astrophysical Journal released an article based on the results on May 2.