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NASA Discovers Shockingly Bright Dead Star with the Energy of 10 Million Suns (VIDEO)

First Posted: Oct 09, 2014 07:20 AM EDT

Astronomers have made a startling discovery with NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR). They've stumbled on a pulsating dead star shining with the energy of about 10 million stars. Called a pulsar, this dead star was previously thought to be a black hole because it was so powerful.

"We've never seen a pulsar even close to being this bright," said Dom Walton, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Honestly, we don't know how this happens, and theorists will be chewing on it for a long time."

The recently discovered pulsar is odd. While pulsars are incredibly dense rotating remains of a star and typically have about one and two times the mass of the sun, this new pulsar shines about 100 times brighter than theory suggests it should be able to with its mass. That's probably why scientists believed that this pulsar was, at first, a black hole. Unlike black holes, though, pulsars emit pulsing light.

Pulsars are a bit like giant magnets that emit radiation from their magnetic poles. As they rotate, an outside observer with an X-ray telescope can see flashes of powerful light as the beam sweeps periodically across the observer's field of view, like a lighthouse beacon. Black holes don't have the ability to emit this type of pulsing light.

What's more interesting is the fact that physicists had previously set the Eddington limit, a basic physics guideline that sets an upper limit on the brightness that an object of a given mass should be able to achieve. This new pulsar, though, smashes these limits.

"This is the most extreme violation of that limit that we've ever seen," said Walton. "We have known that things can go above that by a small amount, but this blows that limit away."

Currently, researchers are planning to investigate this pulsar a bit more closely in order to better understand how and why it emits as much light as it does. In addition, the findings show that these bright sources aren't all black holes and many of them could, in fact, be pulsars.

The findings are published in the journal Nature.

Want to learn more? Check out the video below, courtesy of YouTube.

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