Pulsar star changes its beat – leaving astronomers puzzled

By | July 31, 2012

The pulsar J1838-0537 suddenly speeded up the rays it was blasting into space - and 'glitched', in a cosmic hiccup that scientists still don't understandPulsars are the ‘beacons’ of space – tiny, burnt out stars, which emit regular pulses of gamma rays – regular, that is, until scientists found one with hiccups.

The pulsar J1838-0537 suddenly speeded up the rays it was blasting into space – and ‘glitched’, in a cosmic hiccup that scientists still don’t understand.

Even finding pulsars is extremely difficult – and the new discovery could throw light on these mysterious cosmic objects.

The odd new star was found as astronomers sifted astronomical data with supercomputers.

‘By employing new optimal algorithms on our ATLAS computer cluster, we were able to identify many previously-missed signals,’ says Bruce Allen, Director of the AEI.

Back in November 2011, Allen’s team announced the discovery of nine new Fermi gamma-ray pulsars, which had escaped all previous searches. Now the scientists have made a new extraordinary find with the same methods.

The name of the newly discovered pulsar – J1838-0537 – comes from its celestial coordinates.

‘The pulsar is, at 5,000 years of age, very young. It rotates about its own axis roughly seven times per second and its position in the sky is towards the Scutum constellation,’ says Holger Pletsch, a scientist in Allen’s group and lead author of the study which has now been published.

‘After the discovery we were very surprised that the pulsar was initially only visible until September 2009. Then it seemed to suddenly disappear.’

Only a complex follow-up analysis enabled an international team led by Pletsch to solve the mystery of pulsar J1838-0537: it did not disappear, but experienced a sudden glitch after which it rotated 38 millionths of a Hertz faster than before.

‘This difference may appear negligibly small, but it’s the largest glitch ever measured for a pure gamma-ray pulsar.’ …

via Cosmic ‘cough’ – or something more? Pulsar star changes its beat – leaving astronomers puzzled over space beacon | Mail Online.

0 thoughts on “Pulsar star changes its beat – leaving astronomers puzzled

  1. Fred Killer

    Is it not as likely that somehow the data or measuring equipment or methods used were the cause of the 38 millionth of a Hertz glitch?

    Maybe many other apparently regular pulses will be found to vary in the same way in future, due to more accurate measuring methods or even natural causes, like torsion field tension release?

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