Astronomy

Picking out a predatory pulsar

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    Researchers have used raw computing power to hunt down a 'black widow' pulsar that is evaporating its companion star.

    Pulsars are stellar remnants that emit lighthouse-like beams of radiation. They often emit gamma rays, but can usually be spotted only if they also emit easier-to-detect radio waves. However, Holger Pletsch of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover, Germany, and his colleagues found the current pulsar (pictured; circled) through a blind search of data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

    Credit: AEI/FERMI LAT COLLABORATION/DOE/NASA

    Using computers to analyse huge swathes of raw data, the team picked out the pulsar, which takes 93 minutes to orbit its companion star. This orbital period is the shortest of any binary pulsar of this type yet found.

    Science http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1229054 (2012)

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    Picking out a predatory pulsar. Nature 491, 10 (2012) doi:10.1038/491010a

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