Evidence of the most powerful pulsar found in a distant galaxy

Images from the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) indicate that bright radio emission, powered by the rotating pulsar’s magnetic field, has recently emerged from behind a dense layer of debris from the supernova explosion, as announced at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

The object, called VT 1137-0337, is located in a dwarf galaxy 395 million light years from Earth. It first appeared in a VLASS image taken in January 2018. It did not appear in an image of the same region made by the VLA’s FIRST Survey in 1998. It continued to appear in subsequent VLASS observations in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022, international media send.

“Most likely, we’re looking at a pulsar wind nebula,” explains Caltech graduate Dillon Dong.

A pulsar wind nebula is created when the powerful magnetic field of a rapidly spinning neutron star accelerates surrounding charged particles to almost the speed of light.

“Based on its characteristics, this is a very young pulsar, possibly as young as 14 years, but no older than 60 or 80 years,” Gregg Hallinan, Dong’s Ph.D. advisor at Caltech, added in a statement.

Dong and Hallinan discovered the object in data from VLASS, an NRAO project that began in 2017 to survey the entire sky visible from the VLA, about 80 percent of the sky.

Although Dong and Hallinan believe that the object studied is most likely a pulsar wind nebula, it is also possible that its magnetic field is strong enough that the neutron star can be considered a magnetar, a class of supermagnetic objects. .

Magnetars are one of the leading candidates for the origin of mysterious fast radio bursts (FRBs) that are being studied intensively. “In that case, this would be the first magnetar caught in the act of showing up, and that’s also extremely exciting,” says Dong.

In fact, some Fast Radio Bursts have been found to be associated with persistent radio sources, the nature of which is also a mystery. They bear a strong resemblance in their properties to VT 1137-0337, but have shown no evidence of strong variability.

“Our discovery of a very similar source that lights up suggests that the radio sources associated with FRBs may also be wind nebulae from luminous pulsars,” he says.

Now astronomers plan to carry out more observations to learn more about the object and monitor its behavior over time.