Former Missile-Tracking Telescope Helps Reveal Fate Of Baby Pulsar
A radio telescope once used to track ballistic missiles has helped astronomers determine how the magnetic field structure and rotation of the young and rapidly rotating Crab pulsar evolves with time. The findings are published in the journal Science today (Friday).
The Crab pulsar is a neutron star which formed in a massive cosmic explosion seen in both Europe and China in AD 1054 as a bright star in the daytime sky. Now rotating 30 times a second, this highly-compact star emits beams of radio waves that, like a lighthouse, produce flashes each time it rotates. The star itself is only about 25 km across but contains the mass of nearly 1 million Earths.
Professor Andrew Lyne and his colleagues from The University of Manchester report on a steady change in these flashes during a 22-year experiment watching the star, telling us about its very strong magnetic field and helping us learn about the otherwise-inaccessible interior of the star.