Feeds

NASA spots 'gamma ray-only' pulsar

No radio broadcasts from neutron star

Security for virtualized datacentres

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (formerly known as GLAST) has spied the first "gamma ray-only" pulsar - a 10,000 year-old stellar remnant which uniquely doesn't appear to emit pulses at either radio, visible light or X-ray wavelengths in common with the 1,800 or so similar objects catalogued to date.

An artist's impression of the pulsar, its magnetic field lines and gamma ray emissionsThe pulsar - a rapidly-spinning neutron star comprising the "crushed core" of an exploded massive sun - lies in the constellation Cepheus, at a distance of 4,600 light years. The body's "lighthouse-like" beam is formed by a combination of its rotation and "intense magnetic fields" which cause charged particles to "stream outward from the star's magnetic poles at nearly the speed of light to create the gamma-ray beams" (see pic - particle streams in blue, gamma ray beams in purple).

The observations by Fermi's Large Area Telescope (LAT) has picked up "about one gamma ray every minute from CTA 1", providing enough data for scientists to "piece together the neutron star's pulsing behavior, its rotation period, and the rate at which it is slowing down".

The calculations show that the pulsar has a rotation period of 316.86 milliseconds. This will increase by one second every 87,000 years, the boffins predict, since the beams it emits are powered by its rotation and gradually put the brakes on its energetic spinning.

Furthermore, NASA notes that the pulsar is not at the centre of the expanding gaseous shell which is another by-product of a supernova explosion. This is because the blast was asymetric and, based on the pulsar's age and its distance from the supernova origin, scientists have deduced that it's travelling at "about a million miles per hour" - described as "average" by the agency.

Peter Michelson, principal investigator for Fermi's Large Area Telescope, described the significance of the find thus: "This is the first example of a new class of pulsars that will give us fundamental insights into how these collapsed stars work."

He added: "This observation shows the power of the Large Area Telescope. It is so sensitive that we can now discover new types of objects just by observing their gamma-ray emissions."

However, while NASA is trumpeting the singularity of its new find, Fermi team member Alice Harding noted that it isn't necessarily a gamma-ray-only object. She said: "We think the region that emits the pulsed gamma rays is broader than that responsible for pulses of lower-energy radiation. The radio beam probably never swings toward Earth, so we never see it. But the wider gamma-ray beam does sweep our way."

Fermi was launched back in June. Its mission goals are: "To understand the mechanisms of particle acceleration in active galactic nuclei (AGNs), neutron stars, and supernova remnants (SNRs); to resolve the gamma-ray sky: characterize unidentified sources and diffuse emission; to determine the high-energy behavior of gamma-ray bursts and variable sources; and to probe dark matter and the early universe."

NASA has more on Fermi's instruments - the Large Area Telescope (LAT) and the GLAST Burst Monitor (GBM) - here. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
What's that STINK? Rosetta probe shoves nose under comet's tail
Rotten eggs, horse dung and almonds – yuck
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Kip Thorne explains how he created the black hole for Interstellar
Movie special effects project spawns academic papers on gravitational lensing
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
Moment of truth for LOHAN's servos: Our US allies are poised for final test flight
Will Vulture 2 freeze at altitude? Edge Research Lab to find out
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.