Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


First view of a newborn millisecond pulsar?


Artist’s impression of millisecond pulsar and companion

The globular cluster NGC 6397

Combining Hubble Space Telescope images with radio observations has revealed a highly unusual system consisting of a fast spinning pulsar and a bloated red companion star. The existence of the system is something of a mystery - the best explanation so far is that we have our first view of a millisecond pulsar just after it has been `spun up` by its red companion star.

Although more than 90 specimens of the exotic species of fast-spinning `millisecond pulsars` are known today, no observations have yet been made to back up the theory of how they reached this state. A series of observations of the millisecond pulsar PSR J1740-5340 (spinning at 274 times per second) and its companion star from the ESA/NASA Hubble Space Telescope and the Parkes radio telescope seem to show the final stage of the pulsar acceleration process for the first time.
The generally favoured `recycling scenario` describing the creation of millisecond pulsars proposes that an old, slowly rotating neutron star begins to absorb matter from its elderly companion star, typically a red giant. The matter hits the surface of the neutron star and transfers energy to make it rotate faster. The process ends when the pulsar has been revitalised and is rotating at hundreds of times per second (hence a millisecond pulsar), and its companion almost emptied of matter and turned into a white dwarf.

A team of scientists from Bologna Astronomical Observatory conducted a series of Hubble observations of the pulsar-companion system in the globular cluster NGC 6397. The observations show that the millisecond pulsar`s companion is not the expected white dwarf, but a bloated red star, whose radius is about 100 times greater than that of a white dwarf and at least five times greater than a normal star of similar mass! This unique couple orbit around each other in 1.35 days.

The observations also indicate the abnormal presence of large amounts of gas in the system. This gas is released from the bloated companion star and soon will be swept away by the recently accelerated pulsar. Once the pulsar has been spun up it can no longer absorb gas from the companion.

Lead astronomer Francesco Ferraro explains: "We have certainly discovered a very unusual pair. A system consisting of a millisecond pulsar and a star that is not a white dwarf has never been seen before. Our favoured theory is that we are seeing the system before the bloated red star has been `emptied` of gas and turned into a white dwarf. If this compelling hypothesis is wrong then the companion star could be a normal star in the globular cluster that has been captured by the pulsar by chance. Maybe it has expelled the white dwarf that we normally find in such systems."

At last astronomers have observations to back the theory of millisecond pulsar births, and the discovery opens a new window on the evolution of millisecond pulsars.

Erica Rolfe | alphagalileo
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A new kind of quantum bits in two dimensions
19.03.2018 | Vienna University of Technology

nachricht 'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region
16.03.2018 | American Institute of Physics

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

A new kind of quantum bits in two dimensions

19.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists have a new way to gauge the growth of nanowires

19.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>