Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

First view of a newborn millisecond pulsar?

14.02.2002


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:
http://www.esa.int

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht What happens when we heat the atomic lattice of a magnet all of a sudden?
18.07.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin

nachricht Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino
16.07.2018 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

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: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Global study of world's beaches shows threat to protected areas

19.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

New creepy, crawly search and rescue robot developed at Ben-Gurion U

19.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Metal too 'gummy' to cut? Draw on it with a Sharpie or glue stick, science says

19.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>