Astronomers using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Space Telescope and the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) have found a pulsar hurtling through space at nearly 2.5 million miles an hour — so fast it could travel the distance between Earth and the Moon in just 6 minutes.
Pulsars are superdense, rapidly spinning neutron stars left behind when a massive star explodes. This one, dubbed PSR J0002+6216 (J0002 for short), sports a radio-emitting tail pointing directly toward the expanding debris from a recent supernova explosion. Thanks to its narrow dart-like tail and a fortuitous viewing angle, astronomers can trace this pulsar straight back to its birthplace. Further study of J0002 will help us better understand how these explosions are able to ‘kick’ neutron stars to such high speed.
The pulsar is located about 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia. It was discovered in 2017 by a citizen-science project called Einstein@Home , which uses downtime on the computers of volunteers to process Fermi gamma-ray data and has identified 23 gamma-ray pulsars to date. J0002 spins 8.7 times a second, producing a pulse of gamma rays with each rotation, and has about 1.5 ...