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Superheated by a Pulsar

13 Sep 2013, 10:07 UTC
Superheated by a Pulsar
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Using data from NASA’s Fermi gamma ray space telescope, astronomers have found an unusually massive gamma-ray pulsar with a light-weight companion in orbit around it. This heavyweight pulsar is identified as PSR J1311-3430 and it is estimated to weigh no less than twice the mass of our Sun. A pulsar, also known as a pulsating neutron star, is an extraordinarily dense remnant of what was once the core of a massive star. PSR J1311-3430 packs over twice the mass of our Sun in a volume of space measuring just a few kilometres across. A teaspoon of its material would contain a mass amounting to billions of metric tons.Artist’s impression of a neutron star. Credit: Vadym SklyarukPSR J1311-3430 emits prodigious amounts of gamma-rays and spins at a rate of 390 times per second. Its light-weight companion is a compact object with at least 8 times the mass of Jupiter and is comprised mainly of helium. The companion is believed to be the compact remnant of a star that was cannibalized by the pulsar. Being at a distance of only 1.4 times the Earth-Moon separation distance from the pulsar, the companion whizzes around the pulsar once every 93 minutes. In fact, the ...

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