Pulsars (short for pulsating radio stars) are highly magnetized, regularly rotating neutron stars that emit a beam of electromagnetic radiation that can only be observed when the beam is pointing toward Earth (like a lighthouse).
They are so regular that astronomers use their spin as timers so that they can find distances of objects around the universe.
Astronomers have now detected a pulsar that appears to be burning with the energy of 10 million suns, making it the brightest pulsar ever detected.
Found in the galaxy Messier 82 (M82, or the The Cigar Galaxy on the left) is a galactic neighbor only 12 million light-years from Earth.
It is so bright in fact that it is classified as an ultraluminous X-ray (ULX) source. It is so bright that it defies any known process of stellar radiation and exceeds the Eddington luminosity or the Eddington limit, which is the maximum luminosity a stellar body (such as a star) can achieve.
For being so bright, this pulsar is not much larger in diameter than the city of Boston, but is more than three times the mass of the sun.
“There are a number of ULX sources known, and until now, most people have assumed that they are black holes, and pretty massive,” says Deepto Chakrabarty, a professor of physics and head of the astrophysics division at MIT. “Now there may be other, similar ULX pulsars. And that would mean the whole picture that was being built up to try and explain this whole class of weird objects is wrong.”
The pulsar was found using NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), a pair of orbiting telescopes that detects high-energy X-rays from far-off galaxies.
– Ex astris, scientia –
I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +, or by email.