Hi and bye: pulsar J2032+4127 is not going to linger near its companion. Artist’s impression: NASA
A non-standard search method has turned up a highly unusual star — a “fly-in, fly-out” pulsar that orbits its companion star just once every 25 years.
The pulsar, called J2032+4127 (or J2032 for short), is the crushed core of a massive star that exploded as a supernova. It is a magnetised ball of ‘neutron star matter’ about 20 km across, about 1.4 times the mass of the Sun, and spinning seven times a second.
It lies 5,000 light-years away, in the constellation of Cygnus (the Swan).
Many pulsars emit pulses of both radio waves and gamma rays. J2032 is one of them, and was discovered when NASA’s Fermi Space telescope spotted its varying gamma rays.
NASA’s Fermi space telescope. Image: NASA
Once they knew exactly where to look, radio astronomers too were able to detect J2032. A team at the UK’s University of Manchester kept tabs on the object from 2010 to 2014. And they noticed something odd.
There were strange variations in both the pulsar’s rotation and the rate at which the rotation was slowing down. The most likely explanation was that the ...