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Pulsars could probe black hole horizons

12 Jul 2016, 11:34 UTC
Pulsars could probe black hole horizons
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The first antenna of MeerKAT,a SKA precursor in South Africa.[Image Source.]It’s hard to see black holes – after all, their defining feature is that they swallow light. But it’s also hard to discourage scientists from trying to shed light on mysteries. In a recent paper, a group of researchers from Long Island University and Virginia Tech have proposed a new way to probe the near-horizon region of black holes and, potentially, quantum gravitational effects.Shining Light on Quantum Gravity with Pulsar-Black Hole BinariesJohn Estes, Michael Kavic, Matthew Lippert, John H. SimonettiarXiv:1607.00018 [hep-th]The idea is simple and yet promising: Search for a binary system in which a pulsar and a black hole orbit around each other, then analyze the pulsar signal for unusual fluctuations.A pulsar is a rapidly rotating neutron star that emits a focused beam of electromagnetic radiation. This beam goes into the direction of the poles of the magnetic field, and is normally not aligned with the neutron star’s axis of rotation. The beam therefore spins with a regular period like a lighthouse beacon. If Earth is located within the beam’s reach, our telescopes receive a pulse every time the beam points into our direction.Pulsar timing can be extremely precise. ...

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