On November 8, 2017, a spinning neutron star inside one of the most studied objects in the sky “glitched” more than it had ever glitched before.
Back in the year 1054, Chinese astronomers spotted what looked like a new star, which soon dimmed. They’d actually seen a supernova: a star exploding, ejecting gas and dust and perhaps collapsing. Today, all that’s left of the supernova is a cloud inside the constellation Taurus with a central, rapidly spinning neutron star called a pulsar. Pulsars are extreme objects that have about the mass of our sun but are mere kilometers across. They typically rotate at a constant rate and emit a beam of radiation that appears to us like the regular flashing of a lighthouse. Recently, that pulsar hiccuped.