Letter

A planetary system around the millisecond pulsar PSR1257 + 12

Received:
Accepted:
Published online:

Abstract

MILLISECOND radio pulsars, which are old (109yr), rapidly rotating neutron stars believed to be spun up by accretion of matter from their stellar companions, are usually found in binary systems with other degenerate stars1. Using the 305-m Arecibo radiotelescope to make precise timing measurements of pulses from the recently discovered 6.2-ms pulsar PSR1257 +12 (ref. 2), we demonstrate that, rather than being associated with a stellar object, the pulsar is orbited by two or more planet-sized bodies. The planets detected so far have masses of at least 2.8 M and 3.4 M where M is the mass of the Earth. Their respective distances from the pulsar are 0.47 AU and 0.36 AU, and they move in almost circular orbits with periods of 98.2 and 66.6 days. Observations indicate that at least one more planet may be present in this system. The detection of a planetary system around a nearby (500 pc), old neutron star, together with the recent report on a planetary companion to the pulsar PSR1829–10 (ref. 3) raises the tantalizing possibility that a non-negligible fraction of neutron stars observable as radio pulsars may be orbited by planet-like bodies.

  • Subscribe to Nature for full access:

    $199

    Subscribe

Additional access options:

Already a subscriber?  Log in  now or  Register  for online access.

References

  1. 1.

    & Phys. Rep. 203, 1–124 (1991).

  2. 2.

    IAU Circ. No. 5073 (1990).

  3. 3.

    , & Nature 352, 311–313 (1991).

  4. 4.

    Nature 350, 688–690 (1991).

  5. 5.

    & Astrophys. J. 345, 434–450 (1989).

  6. 6.

    , , & Nature 315, 547–550 (1985).

  7. 7.

    , & Astrophys. J. 311, 197–213 (1986).

  8. 8.

    , & Nature 333, 237–239 (1988).

  9. 9.

    et al. Nature 347, 650–652 (1990).

  10. 10.

    Astrophys. J. 214, 251–260 (1977).

  11. 11.

    , & Astrophys. J. 348, 226–231 (1990).

  12. 12.

    Ann. Rev. Astr. Astrophys. 14, 215–246 (1976).

  13. 13.

    & Nature 319, 115–120 (1986).

  14. 14.

    in Mercury (eds Vilas, F., Chapman, C. R. & Matthews, M. S.) 59–76 (University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1988).

  15. 15.

    , , & Astrophys. J. 160, L1–6 (1970).

  16. 16.

    & Nature 282, 383–385 (1979).

  17. 17.

    , & Nature 352, 783–784 (1991).

  18. 18.

    & Nature 353, 801–801 (1991).

  19. 19.

    , & Nature 353, 827–829 (1991).

  20. 20.

    Nature 353, 829–831 (1991).

  21. 21.

    , , & Cornell Univ. preprint (1991).

  22. 22.

    Mon. Not. R. astr. Soc. 224, 107–130 (1987).

  23. 23.

    , & Astrophys. J. 29, 223–241 (1979).

  24. 24.

    & Acta Astr. 31, 13–24 (1981).

  25. 25.

    & Astrophys. J. 380, 557–563 (1991).

  26. 26.

    Space Sci. Rev. 25, 35–81 (1980).

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

  1. National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Arecibo Observatory, Arecibo, Puerto Rico 00613, USA

    • A. Wolszczan
  2. National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Socorro, New Mexico 87801, USA

    • D. A. Frail

Authors

  1. Search for A. Wolszczan in:

  2. Search for D. A. Frail in:

Comments

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.