Archive for May 1, 2015

Pulsar With Widest Orbit Ever Detected, Discovered By High School Research Team

Artist's impression. Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Artist’s impression. Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

A team of highly determined high school students discovered a never-before-seen pulsar by painstakingly analyzing data from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT). Further observations by astronomers using the GBT revealed that this pulsar has the widest orbit of any around a neutron star and is part of only a handful of double neutron star systems.

This impressive find will help astronomers better understand how binary neutron star systems form and evolve.

Pulsars are rapidly spinning neutron stars, the superdense remains of massive stars that have exploded as supernovas. As a pulsar spins, lighthouse-like beams of radio waves, streaming from the poles of its powerful magnetic field, sweep through space. When one of these beams sweeps across the Earth, radio telescopes can capture the pulse of radio waves.

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Dark-Matter Labs Become Subterranean Centres for Science

Deep beneath our feet, below mountains and mine shafts, a scientific transformation is taking place.

Laboratories that were custom built to search for particles such as neutrinos, and most recently mysterious dark matter, are now being exploited by researchers all over the world to explore science outside the realm of astroparticle physics.

Writing in May’s edition of Physics World, Sean Paling, director and senior scientist at the Boulby Underground Laboratory in the UK, and Stephen Sadler, director at Durridge UK Radon Instrumentation and honorary research fellow at the University of Sheffield, describe how these deep underground laboratories are branching out into a wide range of topics, from research into instruments for Mars rovers to muon tomography, radioactive dating and astrobiology.

The Boulby laboratory, like many other underground labs in the world, offers an environment almost entirely free from cosmic-ray-particle interference, which is a constant source of unwanted particle noise on the Earth’s surface. Many groups beyond particle physics have realized that these environments would benefit their research too.

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New Exoplanet Too Big For Its Stars

An artist's impression of HATS-6. Credit ANU

An artist’s impression of HATS-6. Credit ANU

The Australian discovery of a strange exoplanet orbiting a small cool star 500 light years away is challenging ideas about how planets form.

“We have found a small star, with a giant planet the size of Jupiter, orbiting very closely,” said researcher George Zhou from the Research School of Astrophysics and Astronomy.

“It must have formed further out and migrated in, but our theories can’t explain how this happened.”

In the past two decades more than 1,800 extrasolar planets (or exoplanets) have been discovered outside our solar system orbiting around other stars.

The host star of the latest exoplanet, HATS-6, is classed as an M-dwarf, which is one of the most numerous types of stars in galaxy. Although they are common, M-dwarf stars are not well understood. Because they are cool they are also dim, making them difficult to study.

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