The most temperamental time keepers of the Universe

The most temperamental time keepers of the Universe

Two strange pulsars play the role of an incredibly powerful and accurate cosmic clock.

Pulsars are extremely dense neutron stars formed during the collapse of massive stars. They are known for the high-speed release of radiation pulses during rotation. But two recently discovered objects of the Milky Way do something strange: they fire radio waves sequentially, then “turn off” abruptly and disappear from the field of view of telescopes. In the “cosmic act of extinction,” one of them appears only 30% of the time, while the other - 0.8%. This is reported by scientists in the new study.

These lights can illuminate the processes that cause pulsars to release light. They also hint that there are still hundreds of objects to be found.

Two newly discovered pulsars appear frighteningly normal during the release of light. They show no signs of irregular nature. This is evidenced by Victoria Kasley from McGill University in Montreal.

“When they are“ on ”, they are not particularly dull. You would not even understand that they suffer from a split personality, ”said Kasley, who is the main investigator of the Arecibo Observatory, which was the first to identify pulsars. She presented the results on January 4 at the 229th meeting of the American Astronomical Community. The observatory in Puerto Rico has a huge plate 1000 feet (300 meters) in diameter and a PALFA search engine aimed at detecting radio emitting pulsars hiding in the Milky Way. Their size can reach about 20 miles (32 km), and the mass - 500000 Earth masses. Because of the rapidly rotating magnetic fields, they emit strong radiation, sweeping away the earth’s past.

“Rays of light (and, in some cases, radio waves of neutron stars) emerge from the magnetic poles. You see one flash of such a light each time it rotates. It’s like a small space beacon, ”comments Kasley. - “And there are about 2500 found pulsars of the Milky Way. They are well known for being excellent clocks that allow all kinds of astrophysical experiments to be done. ”

Most pulsars broadcast a signal without interruption. But the PALFA team discovered that the so-called “incomplete working day” pulsars release only 30% of radio waves and 0.8% of the total time. (About a year ago, the second pulsar sharply increased the radiation to 16%). It is known that there are three additional pulsars that automatically turn on and off with interruptions. But others spend more time off. All pulsars slow down in rotation with time, as they lose energy. But the researchers noted that the more they emit radio waves, the more they slow down. Kasley thinks this is strange, since radio waves are only a tiny part of the energy produced by objects. Their study will help clarify the mechanisms that lead to radiation explosions. Sudden changes may be due to an irregular magnetic field and how these pulsars lose their energy over time.

In addition, these pulsars hint at a greater number of similar objects that have not yet been discovered. After all, if a subset of pulsars emit radio waves only 1% of the time, this means that every time astronomers search, they discover only one of every hundred of this type. (Yes, and the pulsar is likely to disappear before the researchers recheck the results).

“That is, the population of the radio pulsars of the Milky Way is much more complete,” says Kasley. - “And the quantity is difficult to estimate, until we distribute them into types. There may be even smaller subtypes of “included” indicating that we only see the tip of the iceberg. ”

Comments (0)