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Scientists discover in archival data a slowly pulsing object that has been beating since 1988

The uncertainty of science: Using archival data, scientists have discovered a previously undetected but very strange slowly pulsing object that has been doing so since 1988.

Astronomers have found an ultra-slow, long-lasting source of radio-wave pulses, and they are perplexed as to its true nature. While “regular” radio pulsars have very short periods, from seconds down to just a few milliseconds, this source emits a brief pulse of radio waves about three times per hour. What’s more, it has been doing this for decades. “I do not think we can say yet what this object is,” says Victoria Kaspi (McGill University), a pulsar researcher who was not involved in the new study.

Natasha Hurley-Walker (Curtin University, Australia) and her colleagues discovered the mysterious source in data from the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) observatory in Western Australia. They carried out follow-up observations with the MWA and with other radio observatories in Australia and South Africa. Known as GPM J1839-10, the tardy blinker is located at a distance of some 18,500 light-years away in the constellation Scutum. Archival data from the Very Large Array in New Mexico and the Indian Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope reveal that it has been pulsating at least since 1988, with a period of just under 22 minutes (1,318.1957 seconds, to be precise).

In a sense, the object is a pulsar, since on a very basic level it does what all pulsars do, send a radio beat in our direction in a precise pattern. The problem is that according to present theories that say pulsars are actually magnetized neutron stars rotating quickly, this object is rotating too slowly to be one.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 

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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

5 comments

  • Jerry Greenwood

    Robert

    The Sentinel?

  • Jeff Wright

    Ghroth awakens

  • No one that matters

    The CSS for this site doesn’t work for browsers running in dark mode. A real pain to read.

  • TallDave

    possibly the result of coincidentally spin-cancelling collisions (upside down with reference to each other)

    angular momentum is conserved in the vast majority of cases

    but every once in a while…

    or perhaps magnetic drag from a nearby massive object

  • David Ross

    It took a day but TallDave likely called it. I assume a few billion years of magnetism would slow it down some. Also possible are kilonovae if this ball of neutrons was pulling matter from a now-destroyed companion. A few of those big explosions should slow it down some more.

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