Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Astronomers ‘Baffled’ by Millisecond Pulsar

Researchers are perplexed at the moment as they study a pulsar spinning at 465 rounds-per-second. But the unconscionable speed of its rotation isn’t the odd part. It’s the fact that it’s orbiting a star like our own in an elongated orbit. Given what we know about pulsars, this shouldn’t be happening, reports Reuters.

Typically, pulsars in binary systems circle other dying stars, white dwarves. And they do so in a circular orbit.

One possibility is that there’s a third star, perhaps a neutron star or a white dwarf that scientists haven’t detected yet. But Pound360 wonders...

Pulsars are neutron stars with incredibly powerful magnetic fields. The field is so strong the star “channels lighthouse-like beams of light and radio waves.” These things usually spin at 10-20 rounds-per-second, but they speed up as they attract matter from space. When they start spinning hundreds-of-times-per-second they’re known as millisecond pulsars.

So we know this thing is old. What if the star this baffling millisecond pulsar circles was actually created by it?

We know that when a star explodes (goes supernova), the core collapses into a neutron star. So, what if a new star was formed in the supernova cloud? Is it possible that its mass could have outweighed the pulsar at the core of the cloud, and pulled it into its orbit?

We find this possibility completely fascinating.

Also, let us go on record as saying we understand how big of a bunch of nerds/geeks/dorks this makes us.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.