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Pulsar Outside the Milky Way Galaxy is the Most Energetic Recorded to Date

First Posted: Nov 13, 2015 10:07 AM EST
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NASA has spotted one of the most energetic pulsars ever to be seen outside our Milky Way galaxy. Using NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, researchers have spotted the most luminous gamma-ray pulsar known.

The pulsar itself lies on the outskirts of the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is a small galaxy that orbits our Milky Way Galaxy. The nebula located about 163,000 light-years away and is the largest and most complex star-formation region in our galactic neighborhood.

"It's now clear that a single pulsar, PSR J0540-6919, is responsible for roughly half of the gamma-ray brightness we originally thought came from the nebula," said Pierrick Martin, one of the researchers, in a news release. "That is a genuine surprise."

When a massive star explodes as a supernova, the star's core may survive as a neutron star, where the mass of half a million Earths is crushed into a magnetized ball that's no larger than a city on Earth. A young neutron star can spin tens of times each second, and power beams of radio waves, visible light, X-rays, and gamma rays.

"The gamma-ray pulses from J0540 have 20 times the intensity of the previous record-holder, the pulsar in the famous Crab Nebula, yet they have roughly similar levels of radio, optical and X-ray emission," said Lucas Guillemot, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Accounting for these differences will guide us to a better understanding of the extreme physics at work in young pulsars."

The findings reveal a bit more about pulsars in general, and show researchers a bit more about a pulsar outside our own galaxy.

The findings are published in the journal Science.

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