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Submillisecond optical pulsar in supernova 1987A

Abstract

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.

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Kristian, J., Pennypacker, C., Middledrtch, J. et al. Submillisecond optical pulsar in supernova 1987A. Nature 338, 234–236 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1038/338234a0

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