Space Research

Astronomers observe neutron star’s glitch for the first time using a radio telescope

It is when the core of a massive star condenses and collapses under the impact of gravity that neutron stars are formed. Pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron stars which are often formed following a supernova. However, sometimes, their rotation rate changes abruptly for no apparent reason. This phenomenon of change of rotation rate is referred to as glitching. While astronomers have not yet been able to find out what causes glitching, they have finally observed it for the first time using a radio telescope.

Scientists from the University of Tasmania have spotted the first glitch from Vela Pulsar, a neutron star located around 1,000 light years away. Vela Pulsar measures 20km wide and rotates 11 times a second, it weighs one and a half times the mass of the sun.

The first glitch from Vela Pulsar was spotted by researchers back in 1969. The research team has been closely observing Vela Pulsar using two different telescopes, a 26-meter radio telescope at the Mount Pleasant Observatory, Tasmania, and 30-meter radio telescope at Ceduna, South Australia for over four years to capture the glitch.

According to scientists, the glitch could offer new insights into how matter behaves inside the neutron star as it witnesses a glitch.

Jim Palfreyman from the University of Tasmania’s School of Natural Sciences said that although they know that a glitch takes place about every three years, it is like an earthquake which cannot be predicted.

“We knew that if we could capture the glitch and the individual pulses it would provide us a wealth of information, including how matter behaves at extreme temperatures and pressures,” Palfreyman added.

The research team has collected three petabytes of data in total, which is about 640mb data every 10 seconds for 19 hours a day for most days throughout four years.

The research work titled “Alteration of the magnetosphere of the Vela Pulsar during a glitch” was published in the journal Nature.

About the author

Megha Kedia

Megha Kedia

Megha is a seasoned reporter with over six years of experience covering news in technology, science and related fields. At The Space News, Megha covers space research & technology news.

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