Magnetized neutron stars in distant globular clusters are a challenge to detect — but it’s a job made easier by the world’s largest filled-aperture radio telescope. Recent high-sensitivity observations have uncovered an erratic new star system.
Artist’s illustration of a pulsar (left) and its small stellar companion (right), viewed within their orbital plane. [NASA Goddard SFC/Cruz deWilde]
Pulses from Distant Clusters
Pulsars are the compact remnants of dead stars that shine powerful beams of emission into space as they spin. The brightness of these beams and the regular timing of their pulsations makes pulsars valuable targets for observatories; not only can they tell us about stellar evolution and their environments, but they also serve as probes of the interstellar medium, space-time, and more.
Since the discovery of the first pulsar in 1967, we’ve found thousands of these stellar clocks in our galaxy. While many are located relatively nearby in the galactic disk, we’ve also observed a population of pulsars in the distant globular clusters that orbit the Milky Way. These pulsars are a useful tool for probing a very different environment: the dense stellar cores made up of an old population of stars.
Hubble image of the globular cluster ...