Monday, April 23, 2007

A New Class of Pulsar


At the Royal Astronomical Society meeting last week in, astronomer Gregg Hallinan announced discovery of a new class of brown dwarf that is also a pulsar. Object TVLM 513 sends out a bright flash every 1.96 hours. The brown dwarf also has a powerful magnetic field guiding the beams. The processes behind this are completely unknown. Previously brown dwarves were thought to be boring, an intermediate class of objects between gas giants and stars. They exist in unknown numbers in interstellar Space.

A supernova leaves in its aftermath a neutron star, composed of matter so dense that a spoonful would weigh a ton. Some neutron stars are pulsars, emitting spinning jets of radiation. Cause of these jets has been another mystery. When Jocelyn Bell discovered them in the 1960's, some thought the radio pulses were from ET's. The jets do not coincide with the neutron stars’ axis of rotation, causing them to spin around like a lighthouse. Something else inside the neutron star creates the jets.

Other neutron stars are magnetars, objects with magnetic fields so powerful that they defy Maxwell’s equations to describe them. Once again, jets of radiation and a magnetic field are telltale signatures of a hidden singularity. It would rotate independently inside a neutron star, producing both a spinning beacon and magnetic field.

In an old Sci Fi movie, the pilot is heading into a mysterious void. Motion of stars tells him that the ship is accelerating, though he can't feel a thing. His instruments also tell him that there is nothing in front of him, yet he is inexorably drawn forward. Turn back while you can--It's a Black Hole!

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6 Comments:

Blogger Kea said...

Good to know, thanks. One day soon some phenomenologists will collect all the interesting new data and see how the various theories stack up against the evidence.

4:54 PM  
Blogger QUASAR9 said...

Hi Louise,
thought you might like to add this post Black Holes could provide the seeds of life from Universe Today.

11:37 AM  
Blogger CarlBrannen said...

Louise, yet another fascinating history of the interaction between professionals and amateurs in science is the story of how Richard Owen suppressed the contributions of Gideon Mantell (surgeon) and Mary Antell (fossil collector) in the discovery of dinosaurs.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Kea said...

Oh, Carl, the fate of Owen sounds so depressing.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Kea said...

Er, I meant Mantell...

1:06 PM  
Blogger mark said...

cool illustration

9:04 AM  

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