Researchers have managed to do the first precise measurement of a pulsar, the dense remains of an exploded star. They collaborated with scientists from the University of Alberta.
An astrophysicist of the University of Alberta, Sharon Morsink, had a significant role in the project. She was part of the team which developed the theoretical framework and the software which they used to translate the properties of the pulsar from the data they got from NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) x-ray telescope from NASA.
NICER is doing the best job in measuring the X-rays, which come from a pulsar that’s the size of Edmonton, from the distance of 1,100 light-years. The distances gave us some data, which we needed to interpret to understand the pulsar. The pulsar is called J0030+0451, which is a neutron star that spins 205 times each second, with hot spots on its surface, where the magnetic field is active.
Scientists Managed to Measure a Pulsar Star
When it spins, we see X-ray measurements that get brighter and dimmer from time to time, as the hot spots also rotate in and out of our view. It is quite challenging to use this data with one pixel and find out useful info about the properties of the star.
This pulsar can be found at 1,100 light-years away in the constellation Pisces. It has the most precise and reliable size of any pulsar that we’ve also found. Even if this was a challenge, they managed to come with the first accurate measurement of the neutron star’s mass and its diameter, as well as other surprising findings.
They found out that the star is a sphere with a diameter of just 26 km across, and it weighs about one and a half times more than the Sun. Also, all the magnetic hot spots are on only one side of the star, which means that there’s a magnetic field that’s similar to a horseshoe magnet. This was an unexpected result, and they do not understand what’s the reason behind it.