Scientists at the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society have published a finding to suggest that pulsar, the small but dense neutron star – a collapsed remnant of a supernova – has vanished from view of Earth and may possibly tilt its beam back to Earth by 2170.
Pulsar is very much a degenerate neutron star that is tiny but very dense with an extremely heavy weight, and it rotates very fast and also emits regular pulses of polarized radiation as it is locked in orbit with a star companion. However, the gravity between the two companion bodies bends space and makes the pulsar to wobble because of the waves that is emitted between them.
Astronomers have been tracking the motion between pulsar and its companion star for close to five years, and their intention is to measure the weight of the pulsar and quantify the gravitational pull between them. And then, hardly had they monitored the rotations of the pulsar as it alternates with its star in a 4-hour precision before it disappeared.
According to Dr. Joeri van Leeuwen of the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON), “They pack more mass than our Sun has in a sphere that’s only 10 miles across,” said the study’s lead author.
Dr. van Leeuwen with his colleagues were just conducting a survey at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico when the pulsar, dubbed Pulsar J1906, had suddenly appeared. “That was a real Eureka moment that night. It was strange, because that part of the sky’s been surveyed lots of times – and then something really bright and new appears.”
The gravity generated by pulsar and its companion star makes them to orbit each other in 4-hour spins of seven times per second, and this sends some sweeping radio waves back to Earth. Dr. Leeuwen and his colleagues had measured these rotations to a billion point using the world’s five biggest radio telescopes when the pulsar suddenly vanished from sight.
“By precisely tracking the motion of the pulsar, we were able to measure the gravitational interaction between the two highly compact stars with extreme accuracy,” said co-author Prof Ingrid Stairs of the University of British Columbia, Canada. And because the pulsar and the star are each heavier than our sun by some 1.3 times, they get separated from each other by about one solar diameter. “The resulting extreme gravity causes many remarkable effects,”
The time-space warp and the wobble are now responsible for the Pulsar J1906 shifting its light elsewhere – maybe till 2170.