Unusual Stellar pair.  CREDIT: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF

Strange, Super-Sized Pulsar Stumps Scientists

16 May , 2008 by

Astronomers have discovered a fast-spinning, super-sized pulsar in a stretched-out orbit around an apparent Sun-like star. This combination (as well as that many hyphenated words in one sentence) has never seen before, and astronomers are puzzled about how this bizarre system developed. “Our ideas about how the fastest-spinning pulsars are produced do not predict either the kind of orbit or the type of companion star this one has,” said David Champion of the Australia Telescope National Facility. “We have to come up with some new scenarios to explain this weird pair.”

Pulsar J1903+0327, a rotating neutron star, is unusually massive for its type. It spins on its axis 465 times every second, while typical pulsars spin a few times a second. Located nearly 21,000 light-years from Earth, its elongated orbit takes it around its companion star once every 95 days. And the companion star is quite unusual as well: many pulsars pair up with a white dwarf star or another neutron star, but infrared images of the system show a Sun-like star along with the pulsar.

“This combination of properties is unprecedented. Not only does it require us to figure out how this system was produced, but the large mass may help us understand how matter behaves at extremely high densities,” said Scott Ransom of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

The image above shows the size and shape of Earth’s orbit around the sun compared to the orbits of Pulsar J1903+0327 and its possible Sun-like companion star. The sizes of the Sun and the possible companion star have been exaggerated by a factor of about 10, while that of the Earth has been exaggerated by a factor of about 1000. The pulsar, with its magnetic field and beams of radiation, is too large by a factor of about 100,000.

This pulsar was first detected in 2006 with the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, with subsequent observations by the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia, the Westerbork radio telescope in the Netherlands, and the Gemini North optical telescope in Hawaii.

It’s possible that the pulsar may be part of a triple, not a double, star system. In this case, the pulsar’s 95-day orbit is around a neutron star or white dwarf that’s not been detected yet, not the Sun-like star seen in the infrared image. The Sun-like star would then be in a more-distant orbit around the pulsar and its close companion. But this, too would be highly unusual.

“We’ve found about 50 pulsars in binary systems. We may now have found our first pulsar in a stellar triple system,” Ransom said.

Further studies are underway to get a better understanding of what seems to be a highly unusual system.

“This is a fascinating object that has a lot to teach us about physics. It’s going to be exciting to peel away the mystery of how this thing came to be,” Champion said.

Original News Source: National Radio Astronomy Observatory


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Stephen
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May 16, 2008 12:33 PM

That’s hyphenated-words, obviously.

IToldYa
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IToldYa
May 16, 2008 1:39 PM

Oh no. Not another thing our conventional theories can’t account for!

Richard
Member
Richard
May 16, 2008 2:33 PM

What a place to be! Awesome!

Remember Jack McDevitts “The Hercules Text”: maybe there is no ‘natural’ explanation…

sofista
Member
May 16, 2008 3:58 PM

Los astrónomos han descubierto un púlsar de gran tamaño y veloz rotación en una órbita elongada alrededor de una estrella aparentemente similar al Sol. Esta combinación no había sido observada nunca, y los astrónomos están desconcertados sobre el desarrollo de este extraño sistema. —Nuestras ideas sobre la forma en que se producen los púlsares de rotación más rápida no predicen la clase de órbita […] Fuentes: Nancy Atkinson para Universe Today y NRAO.

Greg
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Greg
May 16, 2008 10:53 PM

I would expect that both the mass of the pulsar and its rapid spin can be easily explained by it stealing mass from the companion star. It’s orbit seems to come close enough for this to happen. This was likely a binary system with the first star dying and forming a pulsar first.

leafguy
Member
May 17, 2008 2:03 AM
Im inclined to agree with Greg. It does seem highly plausible that this pulsar is stealing mass from the sun like star. However, what doesn’t make sense to me is this apparent orbit, as a binary system that is. All binary systems we know of have a common centre of gravity somewhere…ie earth / moon, Pluto / Charon and many other bodies. Also, it occurs to me that, the variation of the orbits seems rather odd, as the objects don’t orbit around each other, which definately does seem to be a triple system. Im inclined to form an opinion that the pulsar is in orbit around a neutron star in a fairly stable orbit, and the varying fluctuation… Read more »
westelca21
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westelca21
May 17, 2008 9:36 AM

Could be they are stumped because their unfounded theories are based on unfounded theories,on unfounded theories.

Since when do we know what is or is not possible, or normal????????????????????

Human arrogance once again.

David
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David
May 17, 2008 3:47 PM

I would hardly consider most of these theories unfounded, some have been hundreds of years in the making.

Mek
Guest
May 17, 2008 4:17 PM
Henry Wysmulek, Bah! What you condemn as human arrogance, I would praise as a human curiosity of the most beautiful sort. Hell, to call it just that would be an understatement; I would call it a melding of our natural curiosities and our imagination, tempered to know nature, to discover the world and to maybe, just maybe, to understand the universe. Are we arrogant on stand on this little speck of cosmic dust, and to claim that we might understand the universe? Would you also call ancient astronomers arrogant for noticing the planets wander around the stars, and to speculate on their true nature? To try to understand how they might move? On what they speculated on so… Read more »
uncledan
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uncledan
May 17, 2008 7:11 PM

I’m still thinking of the 465 times per second rotation. How are we measuring that?

Astrofiend
Member
Astrofiend
May 18, 2008 3:21 AM

Henry Wysmulek Says:
May 17th, 2008 at 9:36 am

“Blah blah blah…”

I would say that posting ignorant comments on something that you obviously know very little about is fairly typical of human arrogance.

Refining admittedly imperfect scientific theories about the very nature of the remarkable universe in which we live would be considered the height of human ingenuity and the pinnacle of human achievement in my opinion. That is actually the way science works you know…

Astrofiend
Member
Astrofiend
May 18, 2008 3:29 AM

# dmedici Says:
May 17th, 2008 at 7:11 pm

“I’m still thinking of the 465 times per second rotation. How are we measuring that?”

Rotation speed is most simply determined by measuring the time between spikes in the received radio flux from the object. Rapid timescale photometry of the source at visual wavelengths and observations at other wavelengths can also be used.

uncledan
Member
uncledan
May 18, 2008 11:28 AM

Astrofiend,

Thanks for the reply; I did some more reading on these enigmatic objects. Fascinating.

Astrofiend
Member
Astrofiend
May 18, 2008 5:14 PM

No problem!

Debi-Lee Wilkinson
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Debi-Lee Wilkinson
May 19, 2008 12:54 PM
But it is an assumption that the rate of pulsation is only determined by the rate of rotation. This is an example of what annoys Henry. We can’t see it, so how can we say how it operates. We produce theories that give a coherent set of answers for enough cases that the theory becomes plausible. But, just like in the game of Simon Says, we start thinking we have the answers. What bothers me more about this, is that if the pulsar is more massive than the star (the article doesn’t say that but seems likely) why are we saying the pulsar is orbiting the visible star? As Steve pointed out, one doesn’t orbit the other, the… Read more »
Emission Nebula
Member
May 19, 2008 2:57 PM

Is it possible that a stellar mass black hole could be located somewhere towards where the two stars paths cross?

Astrofiend
Member
Astrofiend
May 19, 2008 7:04 PM
Debi-Lee Wilkinson Says: May 19th, 2008 at 12:54 pm “But it is an assumption that the rate of pulsation is only determined by the rate of rotation. This is an example of what annoys Henry. We can’t see it, so how can we say how it operates. We produce theories that give a coherent set of answers for enough cases that the theory becomes plausible. But, just like in the game of Simon Says, we start thinking we have the answers. ” Yes, when stating that the pulsar rotates 465 times per second, it is implied that this only holds if the theory on which the deduction is based is true. The reason it is stated as fact… Read more »
Ricky Diaz
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Ricky Diaz
May 22, 2008 2:25 AM
I’m kind of confused about “Super-Sized Pulsar”. It doesn’t say anywhere the pulsar is unusually large. Do they just mean massive, like a magnetar? I also heard about the discovery of a triple planetary system around a pulsar. Wouldn’t the supernova be too powerful for matter to gather up and form planets less than a billion miles away? And wouldn’t the supernova destroy any planet orbiting it? Although the neutron star should pull their atmosphere, leaving only their cores, we can’t tell. There is also a planet around a neutron star white dwarf binary. And a planet around a triple star system, a quadruple star system, one around a brown dwarf, 1 that goes around it’s star is… Read more »
TROY
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TROY
June 25, 2008 10:26 AM

“Instead of saying ‘the pulsar is in orbit around a star’, we could say the more precise and accurate ‘the pulsar and star are both moving along spacetime geodesics that wrap around each other due to the warpage of spacetime caused by masses of each body in question’, but even this language is fairly non-technical and imprecise when it comes to physics.”

WHAT?

Your point exactly!!
The fact is that theories are created, proven and disproved all the time. That’s where the facination comes from.

465 RPS is unfathomable to me yet until disproven that’s the facts.

wpDiscuz