Millisecond pulsar with dual identity discovered
Washington: Scientists using a fleet of orbiting X-ray telescopes, including NASA's Swift and Chandra X-ray Observatory have found a millisecond pulsar with a dual identity.
In a feat that has never before been observed, the star readily shifts back and forth between two mutually exclusive styles of pulsed emission-one in X-rays, the other in radio.
Co-author Sergio Campana, an astronomer at Brera Observatory in Merate, Italy, said that this transitional object took decades to find, and it provides them with a unique opportunity to observe a pulsar's intense magnetic field in action.
A team led by Alessandro Papitto of the Institute of Space Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, directed ESA's XMM-Newton satellite toward the object. It detected X-ray pulses, which indicated a neutron star spinning once every 3.9 milliseconds or at about 15,000 rpm. By analyzing changes in the arrival times of these pulses, the scientists established that the pulsar was joined by a small companion star less than one-fifth the mass of our Sun. The two stars orbit each other every 11 hours.
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