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Unusual And A New Class Of Neutron Star Found In Stellar Cemetery

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The star is remarkable since it is located in the “neutron star graveyard”, where no pulsations are expected.

An international team lead by a physicist from the University of Sydney has identified a unique radio signal emitting neutron star that rotates extraordinarily slowly, once every 76 seconds.

Unique because it lives in the “neutron star graveyard,” where pulsations are not expected. The finding was made using the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa by the MeerTRAP team, and it was published in Nature Astronomy.

Initial detection of the star was based on a single pulse. Multiple pulses could then be confirmed using simultaneous eight-second-long images of the sky to validate their position.

Neutron stars are the dense leftovers of enormous stellar supernova explosions. There are approximately 3,000 of them in our Galaxy, according to scientists. The new discovery, on the other hand, is unlike anything else that has been discovered thus far. It may belong to the theorized class of ultra-long period magnetars – stars with exceptionally powerful magnetic fields, according to scientists.

“Amazingly, we only detect radio emission from this source for 0.5 percent of its rotation period,” noted research lead Dr. Manisha Caleb, formerly of the University of Manchester and now of the University of Sydney.

She said: “This means that it is very lucky that the radio beam intersected with the Earth.

“It is therefore likely that there are many more of these very slowly spinning stars in the Galaxy, which has important implications for understanding how neutron stars are born and age.

“The majority of pulsar surveys do not search for periods this long, so we have no idea how many of these stars might exist.”

PSR J0901-4046 is the name of a newly discovered neutron star that appears to have at least seven different pulse types, some of which occur at regular intervals. It has pulsar-like features, ultra-long period magnetars, and even rapid radio bursts – short flashes of radio emission in random sky locations.

“This is the beginning of a new class of neutron stars. How or whether it relates to other classes is yet to be explored. There are likely many more out there. We need only look!,” Dr. Caleb added.

Image Credit: University of Sydney

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