Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Submillisecond optical pulsar in supernova 1987A


WE have detected an optical pulsar with frequency f = 1,968.629 Hz at the location of supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The brightness of the pulsed light increased from magnitude 19 to 18 during a 7-h observation period starting on 18.1 January 1989 UT, in observations taken using the 4-m telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. The frequency of the pulsar during this same period varied in a nearly sinusoidal manner, with an amplitude of 1.5 x 10-3 Hz and a period of 8h. If this is interpreted as the result of a binary orbit, it suggests that there may be a Jupiter-sized object orbiting the pulsar at a distance of 106 km. No significant pulsations were seen in data taken with the same detection system at the 100" telescope at Las Campanas Observatory on 31 January UT, indicating that the pulsar had dropped below our detection limit of magnitude 20. Significant second (2f) and third (3f) harmonics were also observed.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Middleditch, J. et al. IAU Circ. No. 4735, (1989).

  2. 2

    Pennypacker, C. et al. Astrophys. J. (in the press).

  3. 3

    Middleditch, J. & Cordova, F. A. Astrophys. J. 255, 585–595 (1982).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Middleditch, J. & Kristian, J. Astrophys. J. 279, 157–162 (1984).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Friedman, J. L., Ipser, J. R. & Parker, L. Nature 312, 255–257 (1984).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Friedman, J. L., Imamura, J. N., Durisen, R. H. & Parker, L. Nature 336, 560–562 (1988).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Fruchter, A. S., Stinebring, D. R. & Taylor, J. H. Nature 333, 237–239 (1988).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Kristian, J., Pennypacker, C., Middledrtch, J. et al. Submillisecond optical pulsar in supernova 1987A. Nature 338, 234–236 (1989).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing