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Mystery Pulsar Baffles Astronomers

25 Jan 2013, 16:43 UTC
Mystery Pulsar Baffles Astronomers
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A pulsar that is able, without warning, to dramatically change the way in which it shines has been identified by an international team of astronomers. Using a satellite X-ray telescope combined with terrestrial radio telescopes the pulsar was found to flip on a roughly half-hour timescale between two extreme states; one dominated by X-ray pulses, the other by a highly-organised pattern of radio pulses.The emission of X-rays and radio waves by these pulsating neutron stars is able to change dramatically in seconds, simultaneously, in a way that cannot be explained with current theory. It suggests a quick change of the entire magnetosphere. In their research the team combined observations from the X-ray space telescope XMM-Newton and the radio telescope LOFAR.

The research was led by Professor Wim Hermsen from The Netherlands Institute for Space Research and the University of Amsterdam. *
Researchers from Jodrell Bank Observatory, as well as institutions around the world, used simultaneous observations with the X-ray satellite XMM-Newton and two radio telescopes; the LOw Frequency Array (LOFAR) in the Netherlands and the Giant Meter Wave Telescope (GMRT) in India to reveal this so far unique behavior.* Pulsars are small spinning stars that are about the size of ...

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