Arecibo Observatory observations of a massive and fast-spinning pulsing star

UCFToday- Pulsar PSR B1957+20 is in the background through the cloud of gas enveloping its dwarf star companion. (Image from Mark A. Garlick, Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto)

Imagine being able to see a flea on the surface of Pluto. That’s a good way to describe what the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico helped a group of Canadian researchers do.

The team, led by Robert Main of the University of Toronto, was able to observe unprecedented details of a pulsar 6,500 light years from Earth. Astronomers study pulsars for a variety of reasons. For example, pulsars have been used to verify gravitational waves. In fact, the pulsar system that led to the first indirect measurement of gravitational waves was also discovered at Arecibo, and led to the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1993. Pulsars may also hold clues to understanding the mechanisms behind colliding black holes.

The pulsar is designated PSR B1957+20 and is a neutron star that rotates rapidly—over 600 times a second. As the pulsar spins, it emits beams of radiation from the two hotspots on its surface. The intense regions of radiation being observed are associated with the beams. According to previos work by the same author, this is likely one of the most massive pulsars ever known.


The team’s new findings are published this week online in the journal Nature.


For more about the scientific findings visit UCFToday.


Related Information can be found here:

Dunlap Institute Press Release

 Arecibo Observatory: Astronomy

Discovery of the first Pulsar – Nobel Prize 1993 Press Release