A team of high school students made a huge discovery. They found out a pulsar that has the widest known orbit around a neutron star. It is the most important find of its kind ever recorded.
The team of teenagers made its discovery by researching at data from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), reported the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. The finding could aid scientists to find out more about the forming and evolution of binary neutron stars.
“Pulsars are some of the most extreme objects in the universe. The students’ discovery shows one of these objects in a really unique set of circumstances,” said Joe Swiggum, a graduate student in physics and astronomy at West Virginia University in Morgantown and lead author on the report which was published in the Astrophysical Journal, in which he explains this discovery and its implications.
Few pulsars, which are rapidly spinning neutron stars, are orbiting other neutron stars such as the one that was recently found. The object, named PSR J1930-1852, was spotted in 2012 by Cecilia McGough, a student at Strasburg High School in Virginia, and De’Shang Ray, another student, but from the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Md. The two high-school students were taking part to the Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC) workshop. After the discovery, experts determined pulsar is part of a binary system which has important differences in its spin frequency, but the experts could not observe a visible partner star.
“Given the lack of any visible signals and the careful review of the timing of the pulsar, we concluded that the most likely companion was another neutron star,” Swiggum said.
More precise calculations indicated the two neutron stats have an extremely wide separation, the largest of any known binary neutron system.
“Its orbit is more than twice as large as that of any previously known double neutron star system, The pulsar’s parameters give us valuable clues about how a system like this could have formed. Discoveries of outlier systems like J1930-1852 give us a clearer picture of the full range of possibilities in binary evolution” Swiggum explained.
Approximately 10 percent of known pulsars are part of binary systems, while almost all of these have been discovered orbiting white dwarf companion stars. Only very few have been found to orbit other neutron stars or main sequence stars, a category our Sun is part of.
Image Source: HNGN