A mysterious signal intercepted by the MeerKAT radio telescope has discovered a whole new star object in our galaxy.
Credit: University of Sydney / The Conversation
In the heart of deep space, 1,300 light-years from Earth, a whole new celestial body has been discovered that behaves differently from all the hitherto known. The object, archived as PSR J0901-4046, manifested itself in the researchers’ data with a flash of radio waves lasting 300 milliseconds. From follow-up studies, astrophysicists have determined that some characteristics of the object match those of a pulsar-like neutron star – a collapsed, compact, very densely star-derived object emitting radio waves from the poles – however, some details are abnormal. Experts say they have discovered what might be called an “ultra long period neutron star”.
The identification and description of the new object was an international research team led by researchers from the School of Physics at the University of Sydney (Australia) and the University of Manchester, who worked closely with colleagues from the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford, Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, South African Radio Astronomy Observatory and other research centers. Researchers, coordinated by Professor Manisha Caleb, identified the mysterious radio signal by analyzing data from the powerful MeerKAT radio telescope, through which mysterious filaments from the Milky Way were recently discovered. Scientists studied the Vela-X 1 region in our galaxy, located 1,300 light-years from Earth, as they intercepted the mysterious 300 millisecond signal. The researchers were fascinated by the radio program, as Professor Caleb explains in an article for The Conversation, and decided to search the archive data for more and identify them (the expert explained that they generally look for signals at 20 to 30 milliseconds).
By crossing the data, they found that these signals repeated themselves every 76 seconds, a very long period for the rotation of a normal neutron star, as it generally emits such repeated signals in the order of a millisecond or by a few seconds more . For pulsars, the maximum known period in the emission frequency is 23.5 seconds, which is why experts believe that they are facing a “completely new class of radio-emitting objects”, ie. neutron stars that emit ultra-long period radios. . “With a rotation period of 75.88 s, a characteristic age of 5.3 million years and a narrow pulse cycle, it is unclear how its radio emission is generated and challenges our current understanding of how these systems evolve. Radio emission has unique spectral-temporal properties, such as quasi-periodicity and partial cancellation, which provide important clues to the emission mechanism, ”wrote the authors of the new study published in Nature.
Among other unusual details about this object, the fact that it is in an area of space, which scientists call the “neutron star cemetery”. Radio emissions are not expected to be detected here because it is an area populated by neutron stars at the end of their life cycle that are “less active or inactive”. For all of these reasons, “PSR J0941-4046 questions our understanding of the birth and evolution of neutron stars,” Professor Caleb emphasizes. Scientists do not even know how long this object has been active, or how many similar celestial bodies may be present in the Milky Way; So many questions they will try to answer and continue to explore space with ultra-sensitive radio telescopes like MeerKAT. Details of the research “Discovery of a radio-emitting neutron star with an ultra-long spin period of 76 s” have been published in Nature Astronomy.