Scientists have found a strange pulsar in deep space and it is giving off a strange light, leaving experts baffled.
A bizarre pulsar emanating from a nearby neutron star called RX J0806.4-4123, has been found to be giving off a strange light. Scientists don’t know why.
The odd phenomenon was spotted by a group of experts from Penn State University who found the mysterious emission while operating the Hubble Space Telescope.
After observing the pulsar, they noticed that it was giving off infrared radiation at a great distance.
Bettina Posselt, associate research professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State and the lead author of the paper said in a statement: “This particular neutron star belongs to a group of seven nearby X-ray pulsars – nicknamed ‘the Magnificent Seven’ – that are hotter than they ought to be considering their ages and available energy reservoir provided by the loss of rotation energy.”
“We observed an extended area of infrared emissions around this neutron star – named RX J0806.4-4123 – the total size of which translates into about 200 astronomical units (or 2.5 times the orbit of Pluto around the Sun) at the assumed distance of the pulsar,” added Posselt.
Experts have noted that RX J0806.4-4123 is the first of its kind with an extended emission that has been observed only in infrared wavelengths.
And two things could explain this odd feature.
Either there is a disk of material–most likely made out of space dust– surrounding RX J0806.4-4123, or we are looking at a pulsar wind nebula–a type of nebula found inside the shells of supernova remnants (SNRe) that is powered by pulsar winds generated by its central pulsar.
“One theory is that there could be what is known as a ‘fallback disk’ of material that coalesced around the neutron star after the supernova,” Dr. Posselt said.
“Such a disk would be composed of matter from the progenitor massive star. Its subsequent interaction with the neutron star could have heated the pulsar and slowed its rotation.”
“If confirmed as a supernova fallback disk, this result could change our general understanding of neutron star evolution.”
“A pulsar wind nebula would require that the neutron star exhibits a pulsar wind,” she added.
“A pulsar wind can be produced when particles are accelerated in the electric field that is produced by the fast rotation of a neutron star with a strong magnetic field. As the neutron star travels through the interstellar medium at greater than the speed of sound, a shock can form where the interstellar medium and the pulsar wind interact. The shocked particles would then radiate synchrotron emission, causing the extended infrared emission that we see.”
“Typically, pulsar wind nebulae are seen in X-rays and an infrared-only pulsar wind nebula would be very unusual and exciting.”
The findings appear in the Astrophysical Journal.
Featured Image Credit: (Nahks Tr’Ehnl, Penn State)