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Astronomers identify the most powerful pulsar ever discovered, and it’s surprisingly young

Artist’s concept of a neutron star. (Image: Raphael.concorde/ Daniel Molybdenum/ NASA/ Wikimedia Commons).

Pulsars are rotating neutron stars in which pulses of radiation are observed at very regular intervals, usually ranging from milliseconds to seconds. Pulsars have very strong magnetic fields that channel jets of particles along the two magnetic poles. These accelerated particles produce very powerful light beams. Often the magnetic field is not aligned with the spin axis, so those beams of particles and light are swept away as the star spins. Because they emit another type of neutron star, they emit little radiation, most of them are observed as pulsars.

According to Universe Today, the neutron star in question is known as VT 1137-0337. It is located in a dwarf galaxy about 400 million light-years away, and was first seen in 2018 as part of the Very Large Array Sky Survey (VLASS) – a seven-year project to create a radio map of the sky. .

“After first capturing an image of VT 1137-0337 in 2018, he saw the neutron star again in 2019, 2020 and 2022. So we know it’s not just a transient radio burst of some sort. Based on observations, the object is most likely a pulsar wind nebula. As the neutron star rotates, its magnetic field and energy beams sweep through the surrounding nebula, causing the nebula’s gas to ionize and emit radio light.”

VT 1137-0337 releases an amount of energy that is 10,000 times more powerful than that of the Crab Nebula, which was created by a supernova in AD 1054. It is so powerful that it could be in the process of becoming a magnetar, which would mean the first sighting of the birth of such an object. Even more surprising is that astronomers estimate that VT 1137-0337 is a very young neutron star, possibly only 14 years old.

In a typical neutron star, the magnetic field is trillions of times larger than Earth’s; however, in a magnetar, the magnetic field is another 1,000 times stronger. In a magnetar, with its huge magnetic field, the movements of the crust cause the neutron star to release a huge amount of energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation.

How does a neutron star form? When a massive star explodes as a supernova, its core can collapse, squashing every proton and electron into a neutron, ending up as a tiny, superdense object with about 1.3 times the mass of the Sun. These small, incredibly dense cores of exploded stars are neutron stars. If the resulting star has a higher mass, it will end up being a black hole.

Its discovery is a fun moment, as some astrophysicists thought it was an extraterrestrial signal. In 1967, Irish astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell was 24 years old when she became aware of strange radio pulses coming from space that she and her colleagues at first affectionately labeled LGM, for “little green men,” explains Earth Sky. Later, they understood that the pulses came from neutron stars. The fast-spinning neutron stars that ground-based astronomers see emitting radio pulses are now called radio pulsars.

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