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ESA Science & Technology

XMM-Newton:Baffling pulsar leaves astronomers in the dark

24 Jan 2013, 19:00 UTC
XMM-Newton:Baffling pulsar leaves astronomers in the dark

New observations of a highly variable pulsar using ESA&aposs XMM-Newton are perplexing astronomers. Monitoring this pulsar simultaneously in X-rays and radio waves, astronomers have revealed that this source, whose radio emission is known to &aposswitch on and off&apos periodically, exhibits the same behaviour, but in reverse, when observed at X-ray wavelengths. It is the first time that a switching X-ray emission has been detected from a pulsar, and the properties of this emission are unexpectedly puzzling. As no current model is able to explain this switching behaviour, which occurs within only a few seconds, these observations have reopened the debate about the physical mechanisms powering the emission from pulsars.

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